How to Quit Smoking During Pregnancy

Can I Use a Nicotine Patch to Help Me Quit Smoking While Pregnant?

You’ve probably heard that smoking is bad for your health, but if you’re pregnant you might have even more reason to try to quit smoking – your growing baby. There are many health concerns for both you and your baby that come from smoking during pregnancy, but there are ways to quit that are safe. The nicotine patch is just one way people stop smoking, but quitting during pregnancy can be more challenging and certain methods are safer than others.

What are the Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy?

Smoking during pregnancy is not only harmful to a mother’s health, but to the health of her unborn child. The developing baby is exposed to carbon monoxide and extremely harsh chemicals, including nicotine. When carbon monoxide enters the mother’s bloodstream it narrows the blood vessels that in the umbilical cord, which then reduces the amount of oxygen the baby receives. This, along with exposure to the various chemicals, can have the following consequences for the developing baby during pregnancy:

  • Stress on the baby’s heart and increased heart rate
  • A reduction of fetal breathing in-utero
  • Placental abruption (the placenta separates from the uterine wall) and placenta previa (when the placenta partially covers the cervix)
  • Miscarriage
  • Preterm labor and birth
  • Low birth weight
  • Birth defects including malformations of the heart, extremities, muscles, and more

 

These are not the only problems these growing babies face. There are several other consequences that can be health-threatening and long-lasting after birth, including:

  • SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
  • General fussiness or colic
  • Asthma and other respiratory weaknesses

 

You must quit smoking when you're pregnant.

Image Courtesy of Grant Cochrane / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

How Can I Quit Smoking When I’m Pregnant?

The first step is to talk with your obstetrician about your health and the health of your baby. Each quitting method has its pros and cons, but they all have the positive goal of stopping smoking for the health of you and your child.

Just do it – Otherwise known as quitting cold turkey, simply stopping smoking is the best for your health, but might be the hardest to do. Pregnant women, however, might have more motivation because of the immediate health risks smoking poses to their baby’s health. If quitting cold turkey is too much for you, you can gradually step back the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Improve your motivation to stick with it by:

  • Making a list of the dreams and hopes you have for your baby
  • Avoiding situations you know will make you want to smoke out of habit
  • Finding ways to minimize stress in your life (exercise, a new hobby, etc.)
  • Spending time in places where smoking isn’t allowed

Nicotine Replacements

Many women have tried and failed to quit smoking during pregnancy without some sort of plan or other aid. If you have given serious effort to quit without the use of nicotine replacements, but with no success, talk with your doctor about whether or not nicotine replacements are safe for you and your baby. Many obstetricians might rather have you use a product such as a nicotine patch or gum instead of continuing to smoke because of the effects of smoking during pregnancy, if those are the two options. However, there is still debate over whether or not nicotine in these forms is harmful to developing fetuses, especially when they are used in excess or while still smoking.

Other Options

There are medications on the market such as Zyban that are nicotine free but work to help people quit smoking. There have not been any large studies done on the effects of these medications on pregnant women or their babies. Some women find that options such as counseling, acupuncture, and meditation are beneficial as they try to quit smoking during pregnancy. Make sure you speak with your healthcare provider before making any decisions, and keep trying.

[Featured Image Courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]
Dr. Gareth Forde

About Dr. Gareth Forde

An obstetrician-gynecologist, a clinical professor, a researcher, and a father of five—and he delivered them all! He speaks and publishes extensively on maternal and child health issues, where he emphasizes the role of a healthy maternal lifestyle, good nutrition, and breastfeeding on infant development. He chose the field of obstetrics because it is a celebration of life, a happy and exciting profession. “Children are a blessing and they bring joy and laughter to the world,” he says. “I cherish my work, as a doctor and a dad.” The study of genetic imprinting is a major focus of both Dr. Forde’s research and medical practice. This looks at what happens in the womb, how the genes a baby inherits are expressed (turned on and off), and how this influences the child’s health after birth. “This field holds great promise, shedding light on many unsolved mysteries in health and disease from infancy to adulthood,” he adds. Dr. Forde grew up in London, England and Orlando, Florida. He received his medical degree from the University of Minnesota Medical School and is currently pursuing a fellowship in gynecologic oncology at the University of California, Irvine. Prior to this, he practiced with Grand Rapids Medical Education Partners, a consortium of Saint Mary’s Health Care, Spectrum Health, Grand Valley State University, and Michigan State University College of Human Medicine—where he was a clinical professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology. He also has a master’s in molecular and cellular biology from Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University; a Ph.D. in environmental science (computational chemistry) from Jackson State University; and a post-doctoral fellowship in biophysics from Mount Sinai School of Medicine, in New York.”