Stopping smoking isn’t easy. But now that you’re pregnant, quitting has never been more important. The good news is that you don’t have to do this alone. We have plenty of tips, tricks, and suggestions to keep you motivated and give you the strength to give up for good.
Why should I stop smoking?
You probably already know that smoking during pregnancy is bad for both you and your baby. But did you know just how many problems it can cause?
Alongside all the well-known dangers of smoking, such as lung cancer and heart disease, smoking while pregnant increases your risk of having:
- a miscarriage
- complications, including bleeding and problems with the placenta, which your baby relies on for oxygen and nutrients
- a premature labor
- a baby with a low birth weight
- a baby who is stillborn
In addition, smoking while you’re pregnant can cause all sorts of issues for your baby as he grows. He’ll be at a higher risk of:
- wheezy coughs
- problems with hyperactivity and attention
- behavioral issues
Sadly, smoking during pregnancy even increases the risk of your baby dying during the first few years of his life by up to 40 percent. So quitting is a really important step to take now.
The good news is that no matter how far along you are in your pregnancy, quitting now will help to protect your baby. Stopping smoking even in the last few weeks before you give birth can still have some benefits. Though of course, the sooner you can quit, the better.
Some mums-to-be worry that the extra stress of trying to quit smoking will be just as bad for their baby as cigarettes. This isn’t true. Even though smoking makes you feel calmer, it actually increases your heart rate and blood pressure. And though quitting is likely to be stressful for you, it won’t put any extra strain on your baby.
You may have tried to stop smoking before and found it too difficult. But now it’s not just your own health you need to worry about, the extra motivation will help you to do it for real. After all, it’s one of the best things you can do to protect your baby.
What can help me quit smoking?
Making the decision to quit is a huge first step, so congratulations! Next, you need to set a date when you will officially give up the fags for good, and make a plan for how you’re going to get there.
You could try going cold turkey or else cut down gradually.
If neither of these works for you, you could also try nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), such as patches, lozenges or gum. Experts aren’t sure that these are completely safe for you and your baby, but they are safer than smoking.
Whichever approach you try, you’re up to four times more likely to succeed if you get help from the free NHS stop smoking service, Smokefree. Their specialist advisers will help you plan how to quit in a way that’s right for you, and give you plenty of support to keep you on track.
You can visit their website, call free on 0300 123 1044, or ask your midwife or GP to put you in touch with your local service.
Even if you don’t want to use the NHS service, you should still tell your GP and midwife that you smoke. They’ll understand how harsh the cravings can be, and are unlikely to judge you. But they need to know so that they can support you and plan your care properly.
You may be more likely to quit if you get your friends and family involved. Tell them about your goals and ask any smokers not to smoke in front of you. Perhaps you could text or call somebody close to you whenever you’re feeling a strong craving, so they can talk you through it.
If your partner smokes, encourage him to quit as well. You’ll find it easier to give up yourself if your partner does the same. If you can’t persuade him to quit, try to make sure he at least doesn’t smoke in the house. Breathing in second-hand smoke is also bad for you and your baby.
Think of a firm plan for what to do when you feel a craving. You could try drinking water, chewing gum, or having a small healthy snack, such as sliced fruit or vegetables. Or you could keep your hands busy with an activity, such as knitting clothes for the baby you’re doing such a good job of protecting.
Avoid places and activities that you associate with smoking. If you usually smoke in the morning with a cup of coffee, cut out the coffee and have breakfast instead. If you want to reach for a cigarette after a meal, try going for a gentle stroll to break the habit. The key is to find a way to distract yourself until the craving has passed.
How can I stay motivated?
There’s no denying it: quitting smoking is hard. But constantly reminding yourself of why you’re doing it will help to keep you on track. And because you’re pregnant, you have the best motivation of all – doing what’s best for your baby!
Try to keep thinking of what it would do to your baby if you had another cigarette. Bookmark this page and come back when you need a reminder of all the ways that smoking can affect your baby. Keep a scan picture of your baby with you as a visual reminder of why you’re doing this.
You can also think of some of the other great reasons to quit smoking. As well as reducing your risk of health problems, quitting will:
- give you whiter teeth and clearer skin
- make it easier to breathe
- make you more likely to live longer
- improve your senses of smell and taste
- boost your energy levels
As tobacco is so expensive, quitting can also save you a small fortune. Our smoking cost calculator may help to remind you why stop makes sense.
The key thing is to work out the main reasons that make you really want to quit smoking and keep focusing on them. Remind yourself that you’re doing an incredible job! Every time you successfully beat a craving, you’ve scored a major victory for yourself and your baby.
What happens if I relapse?
If you do pick up the cigarettes again, don’t punish yourself, or lose sight of your goal. Many smokers “quit” several times before they manage to kick the habit for good. If you learn from the experience of each attempt, you’ll be even better prepared to try again.
Go back to your plan, and revisit your reasons for quitting. Your doctor and midwife, and, hopefully, your partner, family, and friends are on your side. Let them help you work out what went wrong this time, so you can have a firm plan in place for what to do if the same situation crops up again.
If you can stop smoking for a few weeks, your withdrawal symptoms will start to fade. Your cravings will become less intense and less frequent. It can be hard to imagine when you’re in the middle of a strong craving, but if you can see it through, the day will come when you feel fine without cigarettes.
Remember that every time you give in, you’ll have to start the whole process of withdrawing again. So summon up all your energy and try to stay strong until your cravings start to subside. It will get easier with time!