You’re pregnant — or you’re trying to get pregnant.
You probably already know that smoking and pregnancy are not a good combination. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy to give up.
Smoking is, of course, highly addictive — and giving up while feeling the pressures and fears that often come with a pregnancy is very daunting.
This challenge of stopping smoking is made even harder when you’re faced with a number of harmful myths which provide false information about the dangers of smoking, the safety of giving up smoking, and the methods you can use to stop reaching for the cigarettes.
So in the first half of this article we’ve put together a list of common myths about smoking and pregnancy and explained why they’re not true. And in the second half we share a number of safe ways to quit smoking while pregnant.
It is hard. But it is not impossible.
You can do this!
Pregnancy Smoking Myths
Myth 1 – It’s dangerous for baby if you quit cold turkey
This myth spreads like wildfire. And not only is it completely untrue, it’s also dangerous — because it prevents many women from giving up smoking while pregnant.
Quitting cold turkey will not hurt your baby.
In fact, it’s an incredibly good thing to do for your baby because the moment you stop smoking your baby starts getting more oxygen. And that means that the risk of complications including premature birth and miscarriage drops immediately.
The only risk that comes with quitting cold turkey is that it might be difficult for you; you could feel emotional, restless, and irritable. But this short term discomfort has no negative impact on your baby.
The worst thing that could happen is that quitting like this won’t work, so if stopping all at once just doesn’t stick, it’s worth trying a more gradual approach instead.
Myth 2 – Vaping or e-cigarettes are safe during pregnancy
It’s common for pregnant women to be advised by friends — and sometimes even medical professionals — that vaping and e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to smoking while pregnant.
This is not true: there is no evidence to prove that these smoking alternatives are safe.
The chemicals you breathe into your lungs when you vape or smoke e-cigarettes could have negative effects; for example, early studies suggest that vaping could cause craniofacial birth defects.
At present, not enough research has been conducted for us to know whether e-cigarettes and vaping will definitely cause pregnancy complications.
More research will be published over time, and until then, we encourage you to be cautious and avoid these smoking alternatives.
Myth 3 – Smoking during pregnancy is OK because my Mom/friend/aunt did it
No. Smoking during pregnancy is not safe — and a story about someone else having a healthy baby even though they smoked should not put your mind at rest.
In addition, if you yourself have smoked during a previous pregnancy and had a healthy baby, it does not mean that your next baby will be safe.
If you smoke while pregnant you are putting your baby at risk of a wide range of complications including premature birth; low birth weight; miscarriage; issues with the placenta, including the placenta separating from the wall of the uterus too early; birth defects such as a cleft lip or a cleft palate; and even Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
These risks are present regardless of whether you, or someone you know, has smoked during pregnancy without complications.
Myth 4 – I’m already pregnant and have been smoking, so there’s no point in trying to stop now
Your baby will receive more oxygen as soon as you stop quitting smoking — so no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, it is always worth stopping.
After just one day of not smoking your baby will experience the benefits and will be more likely to develop healthily.
Research shows that quitting smoking before 16 weeks is best, but quitting at any time will improve your baby’s chances of growing without complications.
Myth 5 – Quitting smoking will be too stressful for my baby
Actually, there is no evidence to suggest that quitting smoking is stressful for unborn babies. Giving up may cause temporary stress to you, and make you feel more emotional, irritable.
It may feel as though you can’t cope without cigarettes. But this temporary stress usually lasts 2-3 weeks at the most, and has no negative impact on the baby or pregnancy.
Many mothers share concerns that smoking relaxes them, and so it’s better for their baby if they keep smoking and stay calm.
But the dangerous effects of smoking on an unborn child far outweigh any momentary relaxation that the mother experiences from smoking.
If you’re worried that you won’t be able to relax without cigarettes, start looking for alternative methods for chilling out which will be beneficial for you and your baby — such as prenatal yoga, hypnobirthing, gentle exercise or meditation.
Not only will you feel more relaxed but your body and mind will be better prepared for the challenges of pregnancy and labor.
7 Safe and Effective Ways to Stop Smoking in Pregnancy
While quitting cold turkey is safe when you’re pregnant, it’s OK if you need some extra support — or more time to cut the addiction.
Don’t feel disheartened when you hear other people talking about how easily they quit, or if anyone tells you you’re a bad Mom because you haven’t stopped yet.
The fact that you’re here reading this and looking for a way to stop means that you’re already a good Mom. And instead of guilt, let this be your main motivation: you want to protect the health of your baby now and after he or she is born.
1. Chew gum
Nicotine gum is often used as a way to reduce nicotine intake slowly while giving up smoking.
For pregnant women, the best thing is no nicotine at all — but studies do show that nicotine gum as a replacement for smoking does increase the chances that your baby will have a healthy birth weight, and be less likely to be born early.
However, a study which gave some pregnant participants nicotine gum, and other pregnant participants a placebo gum (it didn’t contain nicotine, but the women thought that it did) found that the placebo gum was almost as effective as the nicotine gum for helping women give up
So you could try chewing normal, sugar free gum as a replacement for cigarettes.
This has no harmful effects at all on your baby and may relieve the stress of quitting smoking.
2. Get support
Research clearly shows that women who have good support when they’re trying to stop smoking during pregnancy are much more likely to succeed.
Go to your doctor and ask for help.
They should be able to refer you to relevant support services and provide you with information to help you give up.
And it’s also really useful to have the support of your family, friends, and partner if you have one. Tell the people close to you that you are quitting, and ask them to be patient and take some time to talk it through with you when you need a chat.
Let them know that it’s normal to become short-tempered and emotional when quitting, and that you appreciate their kindness as you go through this transition.
And crucially, ask them to hold you accountable. Ask them to remind you that you’re trying to quit if you do pull out a cigarette — even if you get annoyed with them in the moment.
It can be helpful to give your closest friends and family a list of the most important reasons why you need to give up smoking while pregnant, and ask them to remind you of those reasons whenever you feel like you really want to smoke.
One of the support services that your doctor might refer you to is counseling.
Counseling to help pregnant mothers quit smoking is sometimes called cessation counseling, and clinical studies prove that it is very effective for stopping smoking in pregnancy.
The counselor will use a combination of talking therapy and pregnancy-specific smoking information to help you manage the challenges of stopping smoking, and will be able to give you tools and techniques to use when you feel like you want to smoke.
If you are offered counseling, don’t dismiss it — we recommend you give it a go.
4. Read The Easy Way to Stop Smoking
“The Easy Way to Stop Smoking” by Allen Carr is a good book to read if you need an extra push to give up. It has helped millions of people who haven’t had success with other methods for quitting.
Reading this book is actually what finally helped me to stop smoking after nearly 30 years of being totally addicted.
Unlike other methods the book helps you change the way you think about smoking and how you think about stopping. I put the book down nearly six years ago and haven’t smoked since (nor wished to!).
And stopping was actually easy with this method. I didn’t have any major withdrawal symptoms or miss smoking at all.
Hypnosis, or hypnotherapy, uses an altered state of awareness to treat addiction to smoking.
A hypnotherapist will talk to you and draw you into a trance-like state — but you are still conscious and aware of everything around you, and you cannot be made to do anything you don’t want to do.
Once in a state of hypnosis the hypnotherapist might use a number of techniques to help you stop smoking.
For example, they might ask you to imagine the unpleasant things that happen as a result of smoking, and to deepen your love and respect for your body and for your baby.
Then the hypnotherapist will teach you how to use hypnosis on yourself, at home or out and about — so that you can use these techniques whenever you feel the urge to smoke.
Clinical studies show that hypnotherapy is effective for helping people quit smoking.
It’s unclear exactly how it works — but it’s safe during pregnancy and could be the extra push you need.
6. Nicotine replacement
Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) is sometimes offered to pregnant women who smoke.
This is usually an option given to women who have tried other methods without success, or who are particularly at risk of pregnancy and birth complications.
Usually, a combination of nicotine medication and counselling will be offered to help you reduce your smoking.
It’s also possible to use nicotine replacement on your own using nicotine patches and gums. However, we recommend that you discuss this with your physician first.
Some pregnant women successfully use acupuncture to stop smoking. It is safe — but make sure you find an acupuncturist who is experienced in working with pregnant women.
Acupuncture can help to reduce cravings for nicotine, improve your mood and reduce irritability while you’re going through the process of withdrawing from nicotine.
It can also improve your sleep and digestion, both of which can be problematic when you’re giving up cigarettes.
At present, there isn’t much reliable evidence to show if — or how — acupuncture works. But anecdotal evidence suggests that it does work for some people, and not for others.
Quitting Smoking is One of the Best Parenting Decisions You Can Make
If you’re finding it hard to stop, remember that if you quit smoking you’re making one of the best possible decisions you can make for your child — and for you. By giving up now, even though it may be difficult, you are giving your baby the best chance of healthy development and a straightforward birth.
You will also make it easier for yourself to maintain a no-smoking rule after your baby is born — and living in a smoke-free home with parents who don’t smoke is so important for the health of your child.
Remember to ask for the support you need; and if you can’t get that support from family and friends, ask your doctor to refer you to relevant services.
You can do this but you don’t have to do it alone.