Studying Mothers and their Children at Risk from In Utero Exposure to Grandmaternal Smoking

Project Timeline: 9/16/19 through 9/15/22

In collaboration with the California Department of Public Health, this innovative study has our laboratory research team analyzing 235,00 stored maternal and child blood samples over three generations to understand whether health problems such as overweight, high blood pressure, preterm birth, and autism are related to grand-maternal smoking during pregnancy. In particular, we are examining the varying impacts between Black/African American and Whites, as Black women face have worse pregnancy and birth outcomes than White women. To test whether women in the first generation (grandmothers) smoked while they were pregnant, we will look for a chemical formed by smoking in 2,400 stored blood samples from their newborn daughters (future mothers). We will link to health records to find out which of those daughters eventually became obese or had high blood pressure when they became pregnant, and which of their children (the grandchildren) were born preterm or later developed autism. We will then compare whether those health problems are related to the grandmother's smoking while pregnant. Using statistical models, we will learn how much grandmother smoking while pregnant explains increased health problems in black or low-income mothers and children in future generations. 

By project completion, our community engagement and education team will have met with key stakeholders around the state to discuss research progress. When the study is complete, stakeholders will have helped craft public health messages which will be shared with key tobacco-related health programs throughout the state. Findings from this study could also lead to more effective tobacco policies, change the way doctors ask about tobacco use, and educate women about the very long-term risks associated with smoking while pregnant.