A recent study has given us incredible photos showing the effects of tobacco use during pregnancy. Using 4D ultrasounds, Durham University researchers in England found that fetuses born to mothers who smoked had higher rates of mouth movement and facial touching than the normal declining rate of movement observed in a non-smoking pregnancy. The findings suggest smokers' fetuses suffer a delayed development of the central nervous system.

“Our findings concur with others that stress and depression have a significant impact on fetal movements, and need to be controlled for,” lead researcher Dr. Nadja Reissland said in a press release. “But additionally these results point to the fact that nicotine exposure per se has an effect on fetal development over and above the effects of stress and depression.”

The study followed 20 babies, four of which were born from mothers who smoked 16 cigarettes a day and 16 born to non-smokers. The researchers observed 80 4D ultrasound images taken at four different intervals between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. While all babies were assessed to be healthy upon birth, the researchers did notice the distinct fetal behavior during pregnancy.

Source: Reissland N, Francis B, Kumarendran K, Mason J. Ultrasound observations of subtle movements: a pilot study comparing fetuses of smoking and non-smoking mothers. Acta Paediatrica. 2015.