Eye defects, clubfoot and gastroschisis are all defects associated with smokers during pregnancy according to a new study where the odds of some babies being born with their intestines sticking out (gastroschisis) were almost 50% greater with mother's reporting 1822 cases of it alone amongst 2 million mothers.

The research published today, shows that overall - after 11.7 million mothers were studied - 173,687 malformed cases have been identified over fifty years. The odds of birth defects in babies meanwhile, whose mothers smoked seemed to increase particularly for eye defects, clubfoot and gastroschisis - the birth defect where infants intestines stick out of the body through a problem in the umbilical cord.

The problem appears to originate in the placenta where almost all of the seven thousand harmful chemicals associated with smoking cross over to the unborn in a series of studies dating back to the 1980s.

Despite the risk, mothers appear to have ignored the advice of many, with young mother's in particular identified as 'unable to cope' - up to 45 pct of them smoked, compared with less than 10 pct in over thirty fives. The risk of smoking was exemplified in the UK where 17 pct still smoke (vs 14 pct USA) and 3759 babies born with non-chromosomal defects in 2008.

The odds of peculiar disorders such as disorders of the eye (anophthalmia, esotropia), clubfoot and gastroschisis (infants born with 'sticking out intestines') were particularly common with reported cases 25%, 28% and 50% higher in newborns. Other disorders more common in smoking mother's included craniosynostosis (abnormal closing of the brain's enclosure - the cranium) and hernias were also more common - 33% and 40%.

Interestingly, the study, which dates back over fifty years found a decrease in skin defects and hypospadias (disorders of the urinary tract) in smokers' babies.

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