Pregnant women consuming a relatively safe tobacco product may have children with high blood pressure, scientists say
It is considered that snus, a Swedish powdered, smokeless tobacco product, is safer than smoking. But this may not hold true for children born to women using snus during their pregnancy, a new study finds. These children were shown to have higher blood pressure by the age of six than those who were born to women who did not use the product.
Hugely popular in Sweden, the product has found its way into the US market and is being currently reviewed by the US Food and Drug Administration. "Placed between the gums and upper lip, snus delivers high doses of nicotine, yet does not include the combustible by-products found in smoking tobacco. Unlike typical American chewing tobacco or "dip," there is no need to spit when using snus," says the press statement.
"Snus is probably better than smoking for the pregnant woman, but it is not safe for her baby," Felicia Nordenstam, a Senior Consultant Pediatric Cardiology, Karolinska University Hospital and Karolinska Institutet and the lead author of the study, told MEA WorldWide. She adds that nicotine easily passes through the placenta and reaches the developing fetus.
Earlier, scientists had established that pregnant women who smoked gave birth to children with high blood pressure. But they hadn't teased apart the effects of nicotine from that of the other smoking-related by-products, the study says.
So the researchers decided to delve into the impact snus had on children. They created two groups comprising of children between the ages of 5 and 6: the first group had 21 children who were exposed to snus by their mothers, and the second one had 19 children who remained free of any influence from the product. Following this, scientists measured their blood pressure.
And the results were in line with the previous studies. Children born to mothers using snus was 4.2mm Hg higher than those that had no exposure.
Talking about the study, Nordenstam explains that the high blood pressure observed in the test group was not clinically significant. However, she believes that blood pressure could increase as the child ages, more so when they are either obese or inactive. She adds, "Tobacco products of any type should be avoided during pregnancy."
But scientists haven't completely understood how exposure to snus raises blood pressure. Animal research and studies of children of smoking mothers, she says, have provided substantial insight on the subject. "We have showed an association between systolic blood pressure and prenatal snus exposure but we do not have evidence for causality. We can only speculate the potential mechanisms involved," Nordenstam told MEAWW.