A scientific study has given us visual proof that fetuses react when their mothers smoke during pregnancy.
Ultrasound images show fetuses grimacing and touching their faces in apparent discomfort if their mothers are smokers. Meanwhile, the children of non-smoking mothers appear more calm and still at the same stage of pregnancy.
The study was headed up by Dr. Nadja Reissland at the University of Durham, an expert in the effects of maternal stress on unborn children. Using 4D ultrasound scans, Reissland monitored 20 pregnant women, four of whom were smokers.
In this video, you can see the difference between fetuses with smoking mothers (in the top row) and those whose mothers do not smoke.
Fetuses tend to touch themselves less as their central nervous system develops, leading Reissland to theorize that smoking slows fetal development. This is just one of many possible health issues linked to smoking while pregnant, as previous studies have indicated that it can lead to premature births and health problems for the baby.
Because few will be surprised to hear that smoking is bad for pregnant women, this study may have the most impact as a visual aid. In fact, these grisly images of fetuses reacting in the womb could be the one thing that finally persuades pregnant women to stop smoking.