We know unborn babies are not clumps of cells or blobs of tissues and ultrasound photos have long confirmed their humanity. As the pro-life movement has focused on the pain unborn children feel when they are victimized by abortion, it’s helped put an additional spotlight on the humanity of babies before birth.
Now, a new series of ultrasounds shows just how much they can be harmed even though they haven’t been born. A series of ultrasound images reveals how unborn babies adversely react when their mother smokes a cigarette.
Dr Nadja Reissland has studied moving 4-d scan images and recorded thousands of tiny movements in the womb. She monitored 20 mothers attending the James Cook University Hospital in Middlesbrough, four of whom smoked an average of 14 cigarettes a day. After studying their ultrasound scans at 24, 28, 32 and 36 weeks, she detected that babies whose mothers smoked continued to show significantly higher rates of mouth movement and self-touching than those carried by non-smokers.
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The image is of a 4-d ultrasound scan showing a sequence of movements displayed by two unborn children at 32 weeks gestation which shows fetal movements in a baby whose mother is a smoker (top) and a fetus whose mother is a non-smoker (below). In the image, the baby clearly looks uncomfortable and covering his or her face.
The London Telegraph newspaper features the images and more information:
The pilot study, which Dr Reissland hopes to expand with a bigger sample, indicated that babies carried by smokers may have delayed development of the central nervous system.
The research, conducted by Durham and Lancaster University, is published in the journal Acta Paediatrica.
Dr Reissland, from Durham’s Psychology Department, said: “A larger study is needed to confirm these results and to investigate specific effects, including the interaction of maternal stress and smoking.”
She believed that videos of the difference in pre-birth development could help mothers give up smoking.
But she was against demonising mothers and called for more support for them to give up. Currently, 12 per cent of pregnant women in the UK smoke but the rate is over 20 per cent in the Durham, Darlington and Tees area.