These days, we all know that smoking during pregnancy is extremely dangerous to the health of your unborn baby. But the reality is, nicotine is a highly addictive drug, and while you might have the best intentions it can be hard to suddenly quit.
Ideally, if you are trying to have a baby, this is something you can think about beforehand, as not only can smoking affect your baby but it can also make it harder to fall pregnant in the first place.
So what does smoking during pregnancy do to your baby?
Smoking during pregnancy exposes the fetus to harmful chemicals – just think every time you smoke, your baby is smoking too. Smoking has been proven to greatly increase the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth or ectopic pregnancy as well as problems with the placenta, premature birth, low birth weight and damage to the baby’s heart and lungs.
Once the baby is born the complications don’t stop there, with a higher chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), delayed growth and development, increased risk of respiratory disorders such as asthma, obesity and childhood cancers.
Many of these risks continue throughout breastfeeding too as the chemicals pass through you to your baby through your milk, and smoking also reduces your milk supply.
So you’re ready to quit, now what?
If you tried to quit before you fell pregnant and just couldn’t quite commit, the moment you find out you’re pregnant needs to be the moment you do.
Research has found that simply cutting back the number of cigarettes consumed is not sufficient to protect your growing baby, and so you need to stop smoking completely and as early as possible to give them the best chance.
Here are some tips to help you on the path to success:
1. Remove any temptations from your home, car, office or anywhere else you might find yourself tempted – or exposed to passive smoke. This is also extremely important when you bring the baby home as they cannot live in a smoke-filled environment. It’s a good time to discuss this now with anyone you live with who also smokes so you can make arrangements.
2. Change your routine – smoking addiction is very much tied up with habit, so distract yourself by changing up how you do things where a cigarette would usually be involved. Take a walk, try meditation, reading a book or binge on some Netflix! Anything to distract you from that craving.
3. Look at your social calendar and adjust it accordingly – social events tend to be one of the hardest when it comes to quitting, as the temptation is all around you, especially if you have friends that smoke.
4. Think about an incentive – saving the money you would usually spend on cigarettes to buy yourself something new (or to save for the baby instead!) Or give yourself little milestones to achieve and once you get there reward yourself with a massage or something that makes you feel great. It can be a good idea to get a loved one involved to keep you accountable too.
5. Avoid passive smoke wherever possible (both for your own temptation and the health of your baby so where possible avoid smoke-filled areas).
6. Let people close to you know so they can help you and support you.
7. Speak with friends or family who have quit smoking and might be able to offer support, advice and encouragement.
9. Speak with your doctor if you are struggling and don’t be ashamed to admit you need help.
10. While it is recommended pregnant women don’t use nicotine replacement, speak with your doctor about other ways to help you quit.