A medical expert, Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee, has said that pregnant women, who breathe in tobacco toxins experienced by active smokers, endanger their babies well-being.

 In a research which looked at the potential effects of passive smoking on miscarriage, newborn death and congenital birth defects, it found that, passive smoking increased the risk of still birth by almost one-quarter (23 per cent) and was linked to a 13 per cent increased risk of congenital birth defects.

The findings underline the importance of discouraging expectant fathers from smoking around their pregnant partners and warning women of the potential dangers of passive smoking both pre-conception and during pregnancy.

Dr Jo Leonardi-Bee said: “Mothers’ smoking during pregnancy is well-recognised as carrying a range of serious health risks for the unborn baby including fetal mortality, low birth weight, premature birth and a range of serious birth defects such as cleft palate, club foot and heart problems.“Since passive smoking involves exposure to the same range of tobacco toxins experienced by active smokers, albeit at lower levels, it is likely that coming into contact with second-hand smoke also increases the risk of some of all of these complications.”

The researchers involved in the study say fathers who smoke should be more aware of the danger they pose to their unborn child and that since it currently remains unclear when the effects of the second-hand smoke begin it is important to protect women from passive smoking both before and during pregnancy. Dr Leonardi-Bee added: “What we still don’t know is whether it is the effect of sidestream smoke that the woman inhales that increases these particular risks or whether it is the direct effect of mainstream smoke that the father inhales during smoking that affects sperm development, or possibly both. More research is needed into this issue although we already know that smoking does have an impact on sperm development, so it is very important that men quit smoking before trying for a baby.

“We also need to continue to find other good public health interventions that can reduce the exposure of these women to passive smoke. One possibility could be for the partner to use smoking cessation treatments such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) patches as temporary abstinence interventions in the home and car when they are in the company of the woman.

“The risks are related to the amount of cigarettes that are smoked — the data suggests that being exposed to around 10+ cigarettes a day is enough for the risks to be increased so it is therefore very important for men to cut down. Ultimately though, in the interests of their partner and their unborn child the best option of course would be to give up completely.”

Approximately 1 in every 3,600 male infants worldwide is affected by Duchenne muscular dystrophy – an inherited condition that causes severe muscle weakness. At present, there is no specific treatment for the disease. But new research published in the journal Neurology suggests that certain drugs usually prescribed for erectile dysfunction may be effective.

Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) is caused by a defective gene for dystrophin – a protein that helps maintain healthy muscles. Low levels or absence of dystrophin means the muscles lack nitric oxide – a chemical that signals blood vessels to dilate during exercise so blood flow can increase.

As a result of the way the gene is inherited, the condition primarily affects boys and young men. Onset of the disease usually occurs before the age of 6 years. As well as muscle degeneration, the condition can cause intellectual disability, congestive heart failure or irregular heart rhythm, back and chest deformities and respiratory disorders.

Many individuals with DMD are treated with corticosteroids. This medication can help to slow muscle degeneration and reduce negative effects on the heart and lung.

But the researchers of this study, including Dr. Ronald G. Victor of the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute in Los Angeles, CA, note that corticosteroids cause an array of side effects and more than 75% of patients are unable to endure them.

With this in mind, the team set out to determine whether the drugs sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis) could help treat DMD. Both drugs are commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension. They work by relaxing blood vessels, therefore increasing blood flow.

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