A new study indicates that women who feel less emotionally connected to the foetus smoke more than those connected deeply.
“It would make sense psychologically that women who feel less attached to their foetus are going to smoke more, because they aren’t necessarily thinking about the repercussions,” said Dr. Susanna Magee, who lead the Brown University research study published in the Maternal and Child Health Journal.
The BAM BAM [Behavior and Mood in Babies and Mothers] study has been tracking smoking during pregnancy.
In this study, the research team asked 58 pregnant smokers 24 questions of the Maternal-Fetal Attachment Scale [MFAS] at weeks 30 and 35 of gestation. The MFAS scale is a standardized assessment tool to measure a woman’s feelings for her foetus.
The women were analysed as two groups depending their MFAS scores [high or low].
Those with lower attachment to their unborn baby had significantly higher levels of cotinine in their saliva — an indicator that they smoked more.
“This study is building a case that maternal-foetal attachment, while it may be a more warm and fuzzy concept, actually has cold hard implications for health outcomes,” Laura Stroud, who was co-author of the research, said.
Magee points out that this is the first study that presents statistically significant evidence of the association between smoking and low foetal attachment. So improving foetal attachment may be one mechanism to help a smoking mother-to-be break the habit.
“Quitting is really important and as a family doctor I can’t stress enough that I think the ideal thing is for women to quit, but this speaks to cutting down also,” she said.