Risk for Nicotine Addiction Tied to Mother’s Childbirth Stress

October 8, 2013 / PsychCentral.com / — A new study suggests that if you are female, the stress your mother experienced while giving birth can increase your risk of nicotine addiction.

Researchers followed more than 1,000 pairs of mothers and their adult children for 40 years.

They discovered adult women whose mothers had increased levels of stress hormones while they were pregnant are at greater risk of becoming addicted to nicotine.

The 40-year longitudinal study provides the first evidence that prenatal exposure to the class of stress hormones known as glucocorticoids predicts nicotine dependence later in life — but only for daughters.

It also confirms previous research that babies born to moms who smoked when pregnant have an increased risk of nicotine addiction in adulthood.

Researchers found that effects of maternal stress hormones and maternal smoking in pregnancy were additive in predicting nicotine addiction in adult daughters.

The findings, as published online by the journal Biological Psychiatry, underscore the enduring influence of the prenatal environment and the importance of maternal health and well-being during pregnancy.