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Breaking your dependence on nicotine is hard. In fact, fewer than 1 in 10 adult cigarette smokers succeed in quitting smoking each year, while 68% of adult smokers say they want to quit (Source). There are some major barriers between people’s desire to quit and the reality of actually ditching smoking. Let’s talk about the barriers, and we’ll get to some solutions later on.
Smokers are accustomed to the behavioural habit of holding a cigarette to their lips, drawing in smoke and slowly exhaling. This action acts as an element of the stress relieving properties of smoking. For this reason, while people are trying to quit, it becomes incredibly difficult to have nothing to replace that behavioural action.
Smoking becomes woven into every part of a person’s life- at work, while with friends, when relaxing at home, etc. Everywhere you go, you have social queues in your life that remind you of the habit and can induce cravings.
Nicotine withdrawal can be rough, resulting in intense physiological cravings, coughing, weight gain, increase of appetite, fatigue, constipation, headaches, anxiety, depression, and more. Withdrawal symptoms can become all-encompassing, making it difficult to function throughout normal life. Getting past these symptoms is key in a smoker successfully quitting cigarettes.
These barriers keep many people, pregnant or not, from quitting smoking. So why should you be especially concerned with quitting smoking before or during pregnancy?
Smoking while pregnant can have many negative impacts on the health and wellbeing of you and the baby. There are startling scientifically proven connections between smoking during pregnancy and negative outcomes for babies.
Potential Effects of Smoking On Pregnancy
Potential Long-term Concerns of Smoking During Pregnancy on the Baby
- Low birth weight: Due to the maternal decrease in oxygenation from smoking, there are negative impacts on the growth of the baby in utero.
- Negative Impacts on Brain Development: Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to potential motor, sensory, and cognitive deficits in infants and toddlers.
- Deficits in attention span, memory, & language development: These factors often result in decreased performance in school and learning as a whole throughout childhood.
- ADHD: Maternal smoking during pregnancy has been linked to presence of ADHD, with 22% of adolescents with ADHD having a history of maternal smoking during pregnancy.
- More likely to have depression and substance abuse: Psychiatric symptom rates show that individuals that were exposed to maternal smoking during pregnancy demonstrated a higher likeliness to develop depression and to abuse alcohol, tobacco and other substances.
Not to mention all of the risks that smoking poses while pregnant, it can also negatively impact your likelihood of conceiving. Both male and female smokers are twice as likely to have issues with fertility than non-smokers. So whether you are already pregnant or trying to conceive, quitting smoking is a wise choice for your own health and for your baby. However, quitting can be daunting. Especially when you add in concern around quitting in methods that are safe for pregnancy. Don’t worry, we have some tips coming that’ll help!
Honestly, a lot of the principles of quitting outside of pregnancy can be directly applied, even with pregnancy. For most people, this starts with identifying your triggers. Understanding what things make you want a smoke is pivotal in success. Is it having a smoke at coffee break, after supper, or while driving? Find ways to counteract the desire to smoke in those moments. For most people, this means facing those 3 primary barriers to quitting that we discussed earlier.
Problem: Smokers are accustomed to the behavioural habit of holding a cigarette to their lips, drawing in smoke and slowly exhaling.
Solution: Replacing this habit with another, beneficial behavioural habit can greatly increase your chance at a successful quit.
Problem: Smoking becomes woven into every part of a person’s life, creating social cues throughout life that can induce cravings.
Solution: Creating new habits in the place of the social cue or avoiding the triggering situations.
Problem: Nicotine withdrawal can result in intense physiological cravings, coughing, weight gain, increase of appetite, fatigue, constipation, headaches, anxiety, depression, and more.
Solution: Take actions to decrease the individual symptoms, to make the withdrawal less intense.
Smoking and pregnancy don’t mix well. There are big risks with smoking before or during pregnancy. And while quitting smoking comes with some intimidating barriers, it is not impossible to face them. There are ways to support yourself as you quit. Save this blog as a healthy reminder of the risks of smoking and share it with a friend who can benefit too.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Substance Use During Pregnancy. Retrieved August 11, 2021 from https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/maternalinfanthealth/substance-abuse/substance-abuse-during-pregnancy.htm?CDC_AA_refVal=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cdc.gov%2Freproductivehealth%2Fmaternalinfanthealth%2Ftobaccousepregnancy%2Findex.htm
Horne, W., et al. (2014).The association between smoking and ecotpic pregnancy: Why nicotine is bad for your fallopian tube. Retrieved August 11, 2021 from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0089400
Kondracki, A.J. (2016). Prevalence and patterns of cigarette smoking before and during early and late pregnancy according to maternal characteristics: the first national data based on the 2003 birth certificate revision, United States, 2016. Reprod Health 16, 142 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12978-019-0807-5. Retrieved Aug 12, 2021from https://reproductive-health-journal.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/s12978-019-0807-5#citeas
Knopik V. S. (2009). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and child outcomes: real or spurious effect?. Developmental neuropsychology, 34(1), 1–36. https://doi.org/10.1080/87565640802564366 Retrieved Aug 12, 2021from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3581055/
Dong, T., Hu, W., Zhou, X., Lin, H., Lan, L., Hang, B., Lv, W., Geng, Q., & Xia, Y. (2018). Prenatal exposure to maternal smoking during pregnancy and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder in offspring: A meta-analysis. Reproductive toxicology (Elmsford, N.Y.), 76, 63–70. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.reprotox.2017.12.010 Retrieved August 12, 2021 from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29294364/
Thakur, G. A., Sengupta, S. M., Grizenko, N., Schmitz, N., Pagé, V., & Joober, R. (2013). Maternal smoking during pregnancy and ADHD: a comprehensive clinical and neurocognitive characterization. Nicotine & tobacco research : official journal of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco, 15(1), 149–157. https://doi.org/10.1093/ntr/nts102 Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22529219/
Palmer, R. H., Bidwell, L. C., Heath, A. C., Brick, L. A., Madden, P. A., & Knopik, V. S. (2016). Effects of Maternal Smoking during Pregnancy on Offspring Externalizing Problems: Contextual Effects in a Sample of Female Twins. Behavior genetics, 46(3), 403–415. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10519-016-9779-1 Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26826031/
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