Women unable to quit smoking while pregnant should take vit C pills

Daily vitamin C pills could reduce damage done to unborn babies’ lungs by pregnant mothers who smoke

  • Researchers gave half of a group of pregnant women vitamin C pills and the other half placebo pills
  • The babies of mothers who took 500 mg of vitamin C had healthier airways at three months old 
  • Smoking can lead to preterm birth, low birth weight, birth defects such as cleft lip, and reduced lung capacity
  • Scientists say the primary goal of health professionals should remain helping mothers quit smoking  

Pregnant women who struggle to quit smoking should take vitamin C to better protect the lungs of their unborn child, a new study suggests.

Researchers say babies, whose mothers took 500mg of vitamin C daily, had healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not.

The team, led by Oregon Health & Science University, says the nutrient found in citrus fruits could provide a safe and inexpensive intervention for pregnant women hooked on cigarettes.

However, they stress that helping mothers quit smoking should remain the primary goal of health professionals and public health officials.  

A new study has found that pregnant women who smoked, but took 500 mg of vitamin C daily, had babies with healthier airways at three months old than those whose mothers did not (file image)

It is well known that women who smoke while pregnant create several health problems for their children.

Smoking raises the risk of premature birth, vaginal bleeding and problems with the placenta. 

It also increases a baby’s risk of defects such as cleft lip and cleft palate or a low birth weight. 

Additionally, if women smoke while pregnant, it could damage unborn babies’ lungs at crucial points in their development – leading to reduced lung capacity in later life.

For the study, the team based their tests on forced expiratory flows (FEFs), which measures the speed at which air coming out of the lungs during the middle portion of a forced exhalation. 

Researchers say these tests are a good measure of function because they can detect airway obstruction.

The team looked at more than 250 pregnant smokers who began the study between 13 and 23 weeks into their term.

All of the women received counseling on quitting smoking throughout the course of the study, with about one in 10 doing so.

Half of the women received a vitamin C pill and the other half received a placebo pill.    


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The babies of the women who took vitamin C pills did better on FEFs than the babies of those who took placebo pills. 

‘Smoking during pregnancy reflects the highly addictive nature of nicotine that disproportionately affects the most vulnerable populations,’ said lead author Dr Cindy McEvoy, a professor of pediatrics at Oregon Health & Science University. 

‘Finding a way to help infants exposed to smoking and nicotine in the womb recognizes the unique dangers posed by a highly advertised, addictive product and the lifetime effects on offspring who did not choose to be exposed.’ 

Dr McEvoy says the study supports the hypothesis that cigarette smoking reduces the amount of vitamin C available in the body.

By taking a supplement, mothers can protect their cells from the damage caused by free radicals.  

In a previous study led by Dr McEvoy, her team found the babies of mothers born to smokers had better lung function 72 hours birth when their mothers took 500 mg of vitamin C compared to the same dose of a placebo. 

However, that study did not use FEFs to measure lung function, which is what doctors use to diagnose lung disease in adults and older children. 

The infants in this study will continued to be monitored for lung function and to have respiratory outcomes analyzed.

For future studies, the researchers want to see if pregnant women taking vitamin C supplements earlier in pregnancy could provide greater outcomes.  

Dr McEvoy says that although vitamin C may be ‘a safe and inexpensive intervention’, the primary goal should be helping mother quit smoking.  

‘Although vitamin C supplementation may protect to some extent the lungs of babies born to mothers who smoke during pregnancy, those children will still be at greater risk for obesity, behavioral disorders and other serious health issues,’ she said.

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How I Went From Extreme PCOS to Pregnant

My fertility journey began early and abruptly. I got my first — and only — period at age 13.

When it hadn’t returned by high school, I sought the help of an OB-GYN fertility specialist. A sonogram revealed I had cyst-covered ovaries: one of the worst cases of polycystic ovary syndrome my doctor had seen. They told me pregnancy would only be possible with the most advanced fertility treatment — and until then, birth control pills would be my only hope for a regular cycle. There was nothing else I could do, I was told. So I accepted the diagnosis, owned its consequences and joined the 1 in 10 women the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Women’s Health Office says are affected by infertility. 

Yet as I sit here years later, I feel my baby move wildly in my belly. In a few weeks, she’ll make my 20-month-old a big sister. Conceived without the aid of fertility treatments (and quickly!), my girls are a living testimony to the power of lifestyle choices and the ability of our bodies to heal naturally. Of course, there is no magic fertility switch, a choice we can make to undo what our bodies have decided. But for me, I believe changing my lifestyle did indeed change my fertility. However, my fertility journey is my experience alone, and far too many women aren’t as lucky.

How did I get here?

In college, I came down with mysterious neck stiffness, back pain and loss of motor skills that stumped medical specialists across the country, leaving me on a slew of painkillers and antidepressants. Desperate for answers, I turned to my aunt, Marilee Nelson, an environmental and dietary health practitioner. She asked me questions no one else had: What are you eating regularly? Do you use pesticides? What cleaning and body care products do you use? Have you recently moved or remodeled? She explained how toxins in our food, air and products undermine our health and that their removal is crucial to our body’s innate ability to heal no matter the symptom or illness — an issue often discussed in detail by the Environmental Defense Fund.

Suddenly, I felt the holistic path offered me hope the hyper-medicalized path hadn’t. After all, it gave me something to do about my condition. Plus, I really had nothing left to lose.

I went off my birth control pills, cut out refined sugar, started eating whole foods instead of processed and switched to natural home and body products. After a few months, my pain had drastically decreased. I couldn’t believe it. I wanted to understand why and to learn more and just to keep going. I was all in.

After graduating, I moved to Marilee’s home in the Texas Hill Country for the summer, a decision that would change my life — and my family’s — forever. Because after eight weeks in a living environment that was completely free of toxic pesticides, cleaners, synthetic fragrances, processed foods and even Wi-Fi, I was off all medication and virtually pain-free. 

A year later, I revisited the fertility clinic, and a sonogram reflected what I had been feeling: whole-body healing. The doctor rushed into the room holding the new images next to the ones taken six years prior; he said he had never seen anything like it. I no longer had PCOS, and my ovaries were virtually spotless. When asked what I had done, I told him all I had done was stopped taking birth control pills, removed all harmful chemicals from my home and switched to a real-food diet. He was simply amazed.  

While my focus had been to end chronic pain, my efforts included removal of xenoestrogens from my daily life, something I had been completely ignorant of despite their omnipresence (and my taking birth control, a synthetic hormone, daily!). I learned through personal experience and insight from organizations like the National Institute of Environmental Health Studies that the fragrances in my cleaning and body care products, detergent, dryer sheets and candles were made with chemicals that mimic our natural hormones and disrupt our delicate endocrine system. EPA-registered pesticides, present in many everyday cleaners, are some of the worst offenders, according to a 2013 independent study by the Environmental Working Group. BPA and phthalates, perhaps the most well-known endocrine disruptors, made their way into my body through plastic food storage, PVC shower curtains and canned foods. These chemicals have been linked to early onset or delayed puberty, breast and prostate cancers, lower sperm count,  less mobile sperm, birth defects, diabetes, thyroid issues and — you guessed it — ovarian cysts and overall hormone imbalance. Ick.   

All my doctors — and the National Institute of Child Health and Development — have said there is no cure for PCOS. But all I know is my own experience: that of my cysts disappearing, my cycle returning on its own and conceiving two healthy babies without the assistance of IVF or other fertility treatments. (I even had a home water birth… but that’s a story for another day.)  

I grew up, like most people did, eating the standard American diet, taking over-the-counter medications and prescription drugs when it seemed necessary and using conventional products. But all the while, my health was deteriorating. Understanding what’s safe for my particular body and what’s not — that’s brought me here. I now live free from pain and free from the constraints of an “incurable” diagnosis. And best of all, I see the undeniable effects this has on my growing family.  

This journey has opened my eyes to a world in which we play a vital and active role in our own health. We are not helpless, passive pawns. The choices we make every day do have significance; ignorance is not bliss, and we are not the victims of our genes or a dire diagnosis. I no longer see common symptoms such as headaches, dry skin, allergies and PMS as something I just have to suck up and deal with. I no longer see disease as just a “normal” part of getting older.

For me, making everyday choices that heal, restore and nourish me made all the difference. And now, as a mom, there are few things more empowering than knowing my own efforts and choices can and do have an impact on my health — and my family’s.  

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Woman whose IBS left her looking pregnant’ is now a size 10

Woman, 24, whose IBS left her looking ‘nine months pregnant’ is now a slim size 10 after cutting out eggs, milk, yeast and BEEF

  • Emily Catterall went to a size 14 after developing severe bloating in just months 
  • Unable to sleep from the discomfort, her GP diagnosed her with acid reflux
  • Ms Catterall turned to her 40,000 Instagram followers for advice
  • Suggested she try an at-home intolerance test, which revealed her trigger foods
  • Felt ‘amazing’ days after cutting these out and is 8.5lb lighter three months on
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A social worker’s IBS caused her to suffer such extreme bloating that she looked ‘nine months pregnant’.

Emily Catterall, 24, from Preston, Lancashire, went from a slim size eight to a 14 in just a few months after she developed a severely swollen abdomen out of the blue.

After being unable to shift the pounds, Miss Catterall joined Weight Watchers and was prescribed medication for acid reflux when her condition became so severe she could not sleep.

Miss Catterall, who works for a social housing group, would even avoid evenings out with friends for fear it would trigger her IBS.

After cutting out gluten and dairy in a desperate attempt to get to the bottom of the problem, Miss Catterall turned to her 40,000 Instagram followers for advice, who suggested she try an at-home food test. 

Ten days later, the results revealed she was intolerant to eggs, milk, yeast and beef.

After eliminating these trigger foods from her diet, Miss Catterall claims she felt ‘amazing’ just two days later and is 8.5lbs (3.8kg) lighter three months on. She is now a size 10.


Emily Catterall’s IBS caused her to suffer such extreme bloating that she looked ‘nine months pregnant’. After cutting out gluten and dairy, an Instagram follower suggested she try an at-home food intolerance test. She is pictured after eliminating ‘trigger’ foods from her diet


At her worst, Miss Catterall’s bloating caused her to go from a slim size 8 to a size 14. Her agonising condition became so severe she joined Weight Watchers to try and shift the pounds and was prescribed two types of acid reflux medication when she became unable to sleep 

‘For about four months I was suffering from really bad stomach aches and a really swollen stomach,’ Miss Catterall said. 

‘I went from wearing size eight jeans to looking like I was nine months pregnant.

‘It mostly happened in the afternoon so I knew it was something to do with that I was eating for lunch.

‘It would continue all through the night and I couldn’t sleep. My stomach would constantly be churning and I had discomfort all the time.

‘One night I went out running with my friend and she could hear my stomach churning as I was running along. She told me “that’s not right”.’

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Miss Catterall started adjusting her diet to try and find the cause of her discomfort. 

‘I was changing my lunch so often to try and find out what was causing the problem that it just became impossible,’ she said. 

‘People were telling me to cut out gluten and then to cut out dairy, but sometimes my lunch wouldn’t contain one or the other and I was still having issues every single day.

‘I took the medication the doctor gave me for about a week but decided that I didn’t want to be on medication for the rest of my life. I wanted to find out what was causing it.’


Pictured left before, Miss Catterall can now fit in size 10 jeans (right) and has rejoined Weight Watchers to try and get back to her size 8 frame. She is also now able to go out for dinner with friends without worrying about what mysterious foods may trigger her IBS symptoms 

Miss Catterall ordered a YorkTest food intolerance assessment after being recommended it by one of her followers on social media.

‘I had already done some research around food intolerances so decided to give YorkTest a go,’ she said.

‘My results came back within ten days and showed I was intolerant to egg white, egg yolk, cows milk, goats milk, and I had a borderline intolerance to yeast and beef.  

‘Even though I thought I had been changing my diet I was still eating a lot of these foods because eggs and milk can be hidden in all sort of things.’

Since eliminating these foods from her diet, Miss Catterall finally feels able to exercise and socialise again. ‘I felt amazing from day two,’ she said. 

After initially quitting Weight Watchers in frustration, Miss Catterall has since rejoined and is hoping to get back to her former svelte self.

What is IBS and what are the symptoms?

IBS is a functional disorder of the gastrointestinal tract, characterised by recurrent abdominal pain and discomfort, accompanied by alterations in bowel function.

It is hard to diagnose, as symptoms can vary widely, and needs to be monitored over a period of approximately 12 weeks for a proper diagnosis.

Fortunately, unlike more serious intestinal diseases such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease, IBS doesn’t cause inflammation or changes in bowel tissue, or increase the risk of colorectal cancer.

Symptoms of IBS can include: frequent bowel movements (more than three a day) or infrequent bowel movements (less than three a week), abnormal stool form (lumpy/hard or loose/watery), abnormal stool passage (straining, urgency or feeling of incomplete evacuation), extreme bloating, lethargy, nausea, abdominal pain or cramping, flatulence and mucus in the stool.

Symptoms may be intermittent and can range from severe to mild. 

‘I’m back in my size 10 jeans and I’m aiming for my size eights.

‘Not being bloated has made such a big difference to my confidence. I don’t take any medication and, touch wood, I don’t have any discomfort. I’m so happy.’

Miss Catterall has also slowly started reintroducing her ‘problem’ foods back into her diet after consultations with nutritional therapists. 

‘I started by reintroducing egg yolk first and then three days later I reintroduced egg white,’ she said. 

‘I then tried natural yoghurt, a little bit of milk and I’ve had cheese since.

‘I’m now pretty much eating everything I want to again. I keep waiting for something to trip me up but it’s going really well. 

‘I just try not to overeat any of my trigger foods and a lot of the replacements, such as soya instead of dairy, I have enjoyed.’

Miss Catterall is speaking out to urge others IBS sufferers to take a food intolerance test and get to the bottom of their discomfort.

‘It’s so much better to know what is causing problems. It ruined my life daily,’ she said.

‘Now I want everyone else to feel as good as I do. I’m working out and feeling much healthier now. It was all worth it for me.’

Dr Gill Hart, biochemist and scientific director at YorkTest Laboratories, said: ‘Once a food intolerance sufferer understands their trigger foods, and has a period of eliminating them from their diet, there is evidence that they can be reintroduced into the diet in small doses at a later date.

‘Many people are able to reintroduce foods back into their diet once their immune system has “reset”. I’m really pleased Emily is doing so well.’

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