Girls’ nicotine addiction linked to moms’ prenatal smoking, stress

October 17, 2013

A 40-year longitudinal study of mother-adult offspring pairs suggests that mothers’ prenatal levels of glucocorticoids and smoking may be linked to their daughters’ smoking in adulthood. The report, published in Biological Psychiatry, is the first evidence linking prenatal glucocorticoid programming to adult nicotine dependence in daughters but not sons.

 

A 40-year longitudinal study of mother-adult offspring pairs suggests that mothers’ prenatal levels of glucocorticoids and smoking may be linked to their daughters’ smoking in adulthood. The report, published in Biological Psychiatry, is the first evidence linking prenatal glucocorticoid programming to adult nicotine dependence in daughters but not sons.

Participants in the study were 1,086 mother-adult offspring pairs (59% female) from the New England Family Study, a 40-year longitudinal follow-up of the Collaborative Perinatal Project. At each prenatal visit, the researchers prospectively assessed maternal smoking during pregnancy. Assessments of maternal cortisol, testosterone, and the nicotine metabolite cotinine were analyzed from third-trimester maternal sera. Structured interviews were used to evaluate lifetime nicotine dependence of offspring.

Based on the data from 4 decades, the researchers found significant bivariate associations for maternal smoking during pregnancy/cotinine and lifetime nicotine dependence and maternal cortisol and lifetime nicotine dependence in daughters only. Increased odds of lifetime nicotine dependence in daughters were significantly and independently associated with increased maternal cortisol and maternal smoking during pregnancy/cotinine. Cortisol did not mediate the maternal smoking during pregnancy/nicotine dependence relationship and no associations were seen between maternal testosterone and offspring nicotine dependence.

The results, the researchers said, are the first evidence supporting prenatal programming of adult nicotine dependence over 40 years in daughters only. They reveal that two independent pathways lead to increased risk of nicotine dependence in daughters: elevated prenatal glucocorticoids and maternal smoking during pregnancy/nicotine exposure.

 

 

To get weekly advice for today's Ob/Gyn, subscribe to the Contemporary Ob/Gyn Special Delivery.