When you are pregnant, you have two good reasons to quit smoking: your own health and your baby’s. Cigarette smoke decreases the amount of oxygen getting to your baby. This can cause problems such as miscarriage, stillbirth or premature labor. Nicotine and carbon monoxide are the most common ingredients in smoke that are thought to be harmful. There are over 2000 other chemicals present in smoke that can harm your baby.
Other complications caused by smoking include placenta abruption, which is when the placenta separates from the wall of the uterus and placenta previa. Smoking also increases the risk of premature rupture of the membranes, which is when the water breaks before you go into labor.
Smoking is also dangerous to the newborn baby after birth. Babies with a smoking parent are more likely to develop frequent ear infections and lower respiratory infections. These babies also have an increased risk of developing asthma and of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome SIDS.
Talk to your doctor about quitting smoking. Your doctor can suggest methods to help you quit and can put you in touch with smoking cessation programs in your area. Studies have shown that participating in these programs increases the likelihood that you will succeed in staying smoke free. Many community organizations and some hospitals sponsor these programs. The American Lung Association offers an online cessation program called Freedom From Smoking that can also help.
Ask your doctor about nicotine replacement products to help you quit, if you can’t do it on your own. A large study done by the Mayo Clinic and several other studies have suggested that some of these methods are safe for pregnant women. Check with your doctor and don’t use any nicotine replacement method without your doctor’s ok.
Set a quit date. The night before, throw away all your cigarettes, ashtrays, lighters and matches before you go to bed. During the week before your quit date, keep a smoking journal. Write down every time you smoke a cigarette. Look for patterns that trigger your smoking. This will help you change your behavior patterns. Find something else to do when you want a cigarette. For example, if you smoke on the phone, keep your conversations short or stay busy folding laundry or cleaning during your phone time.
Consider relaxation techniques to help you stay calm. Soothing music, mediation or yoga can help calm your nerves. Exercise, take walks or go out and have fun to keep your mind off cigarettes. Do whatever you find most relaxing and enjoyable. Think of your baby. Focus on pictures of babies, your ultrasound photo, or listen to a tape recording of your baby’s heartbeat to help you stay committed to quitting.
If you slip and smoke a cigarette, don’t feel like a failure and don’t give up. You can do it. Start again the next day and stay strong. You can do it!