Background and aims: There is a paucity of evidence about whether exposure to antenatal smoking impacts on offspring’s lung function in early adulthood. This study aimed to examine whether (1) in utero exposure to maternal smoking is related to poorer respiratory functioning in early adulthood; (2) the impact of prenatal smoking is independent of postnatal maternal smoking; and (3) the link between prenatal smoking and a young adult’s lung function is explained by the child’s birth weight, smoking or history of asthma.
Methods: Data were from a 21-year follow-up of mothers and their children recruited into the Mater–University of Queensland Study of Pregnancy, a longitudinal prebirth cohort. The study is based on 2409 young adults (1185 males and 1224 females) who had prospective data available on respiratory function at 21 years and maternal smoking during and after pregnancy. A Spirobank G spirometer system was used to measure forced vital capacity (FVC), forced expiratory volume in 1 s (FEV1) and forced expiratory flow between 25% and 75% of FVC (FEF25–75).
Results: In utero exposure to maternal smoking was associated with a reduction in FEV1 and FEF25–75 in males (regression coefficient, −0.16; 95% CI, −0.30 to −0.02), after accounting for maternal smoking after pregnancy. At least part of the effect of in utero smoking on young adults’ lung function was explained by the child’s birth weight and subsequent asthma.
Conclusions: Adverse effects of antenatal smoking on development of airway growth may persist into early adulthood. Gender differences noted in this longitudinal cohort need to be explored further.
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Competing interests None.
Ethics approval Ethics approval was obtained from the University of Queensland & Mater Hospital.
Provenance and Peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.