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Smoking linked to defects in newborns

Smoking while pregnant significantly increases the risk of serious birth defects including missing and deformed limbs, warns a new report.

Scientists examined 172 research papers published in the last 50 years to carry out the first comprehensive review of the physical effects of tobacco on newborn babies.

They found that smoking while pregnant increased the risk of having a baby with missing or deformed limbs by 26pc.

The risk was raised by 28pc for clubfoot, 27pc for gastrointestinal defects, 33pc for skull defects, 25pc for eye defects, and 28pc for cleft lip or palate.


Gastroschisis, which causes parts of the stomach or intestines to protrude through the skin, carried the highest potential risk.

Smoking while pregnant increased the likelihood of giving birth to a baby with the condition by 50pc.

The study, which looked at a total of 174,000 cases of malformation, was published online today in the journal Human Reproduction.

Despite health warnings about the dangers of smoking while expecting a baby, 17pc of pregnant UK women, and 45pc of those under 20, still smoke.

Lead author Professor Allan Hackshaw said: "The message from this research is that women should quit smoking before becoming pregnant, or very early on."