So how does smoking affect your unborn child? Smoking in pregnancy has been shown to cause serious damage increasing the risk of stillbirth and premature birth in addition to increasing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or cot death.
It is important to remember that when you are pregnant, everything you put into your body affects the unborn child and if you are a smoker your baby will be exposed to over 4000 chemicals which include nicotine and carbon monoxide.
Smoking is not an easy addiction to quit but when it comes to the health of your baby, you must stop! If you smoke and have fallen pregnant by accident it is vital that you quit smoking within the first three months of your pregnancy; in this case, the risk of your baby being underweight is the same as that of a non-smoking woman. If however, you struggle to give up and manage to quit later in the pregnancy you still reduce the risk of having an underweight infant
The majority of women are aware that smoking is bad for them and they smoke despite this but similarly, most women know that smoking is bad for their unborn child but they continue to smoke - why?
There are areas of the UK where, due to socio-economic factors and in areas of deprivation, the incidence of smoking in pregnant women is higher than in other areas.
The pressures of women in these areas may lead them to have priorities other than giving up smoking as well as maybe not having the access to the education they need to fully understand the risks. Whatever the reason, it is important not to judge!
We have briefly mentioned a couple of the dangers associated with smoking and pregnancy but there is quite a list when you look more closely:
You may be surprised to discover that smoking during pregnancy can affect your unborn child in so many ways but being aware of the risks you are running may be enough to convince you to quit now!
Whether you are pregnant or not, the stages of giving up are the same and this is a brief outline of the steps that a person needs to go through when they give up smoking:
Prepare your surroundings as the time for quitting approaches. Some things you can do include:
A large part of the planning process involves planning for nicotine withdrawal. Nicotine is a highly addictive substance and there is no good way to put it but nicotine withdrawal is not pleasant. The most important thing to remember is that withdrawal does not last forever and the first three days of withdrawal are the toughest; this is when the nicotine is actually leaving the body. From this point, the withdrawal symptoms will begin to subside until, within one to three months, they are gone. It takes a minimum of three months for the chemistry of the brain to return to normal.
So that you know what you can expect with nicotine withdrawal, symptoms can include:
Another area to consider when preparing to give up smoking is being aware of potential triggers when the desire to smoke is likely to be heightened. Triggers can be almost anything but here is a list of examples:
It is important to write a list of triggers that are personal to you and to then come up with a strategy to ‘diffuse’ any triggers so making them less powerful. Here are some suggestions:
If you are pregnant it has to be the best incentive you will ever have to quit the habit. This is going to be the most important reason you will have but there are others that you may think about. For every person, there will be reasons personal to them as well as some reasons that will be common to other quitters. Possible reasons will include:
These are only a few examples but it is important that you make the list. There will be times when you may say crazy things such as, ‘I don’t want to give up anyway’ and having a list of reasons on hand will help to reestablish your resolve
Emotional support from friends and family is a crucial part of the process of giving up and family, in particular, will have a vested interest in the health of the baby. If things are tough, give a friend a call or go for a walk with them.
Alternatively, there are support groups available as well as counselling therapy which your GP may be able to put you in touch with
There is also medication and nicotine replacement therapy that may be considered to help with the withdrawal process if you are unable to get through single handed.
NRT can be used during pregnancy if you are not able to get through without it. The addictive chemical nicotine is used in NRT but it does not have all the other dangerous chemicals which are found in tobacco and therefore it is a better option.
Forms of NRT include:
Medication used to help a person give up smoking is not recommended during pregnancy
Nicotine is, without a doubt, one of the most difficult addictions to give up. In order to succeed, you will need to have good reasons and either being or wanting to be pregnant has to be the best reasons around.
It will still need a good degree of willpower and thorough preparation alongside help and support from your friends, family and healthcare professionals to give you the best chance of succeeding. You can do it, give up smoking now!