Let’s not beat around the bush: smoking during pregnancy is bad for you, and it’s even worse for your baby. First of all, smoking reduces your fertility, so if you’re thinking of getting pregnant, cut out the smokes in preparation for your best shot at a quick conception. The good news is, studies show that after quitting, your fertility will likely return to normal.
But problems with cigarettes don’t stop at fertility. When you do fall pregnant, if you continue smoking you’re increasing your risk of miscarriage. In fact, mums smoking is one of the top preventable causes of problems for bubs. Cigarettes are linked to a shocking 30 per cent of small-for-gestational-age bubbas, 10 per cent of preterm bubs and five per cent of newborn deaths.
One way that smoking creates problems in pregnancy is through the damage the cigarettes cause to the placenta. This is probably why bubs of smoking mums are much more likely to be smaller and to be born prematurely.
More bad news
Smoking has also been linked to some of the worst pregnancy complications such as placenta praevia, placental abruption and premature rupture of membranes with early labour. There’s also a link between smoking and post-partum haemorrhaging. Thankfully, quitting can return your risk to close to normal fairly quickly, even if you quit during your pregnancy: proof it’s never too late to make the change.
If you don’t give up, though – or if you take it up again once bub’s born – your newborn is two to three times more likely to die from SIDS. It’s the same if your partner smokes. Little ones who are exposed to second-hand smoke are also more prone to sicknesses such as bronchiolitis, ear infections and pneumonia. And don’t forget that smoking costs you a bucketload of money each year! Starting a family is an expensive exercise in itself and wouldn’t your hard-earned cash be better spent on you and your new bundle of joy?
So you’re ready to kick the habit… but where to from here?
Cut it out!
If you’re not pregnant and have the luxury of being able to plan, quit well before you start trying. Pregnancy is a huge motivator for most women and that’s half the battle already won. Studies show that counselling is an effective option, especially for light to moderate smokers (who are defined as less than one pack a day). Your GP can get you started or you can choose another program that suits you. There are so many web-based interactive quitting programs out there, and a great place to start is the government’s campaign site, www.quitnow.gov.au.
Here are some simple tips you can try for yourself:
- When you’re quitting, occupy yourself with activities that will help keep your mind off smoking. Try exercising, going for walks or going to a movie, where you can’t smoke! Spending time in smoke-free environments is highly effective. Some other common smoke-free zones include shopping centres, libraries and places of worship.
- If you miss having a cigarette in your hand, try holding a pencil or a bottle. You could try lighting a candle instead of a cigarette to curb the urge to light up as well.
- You might also need to keep your mouth busy. Try toothpicks, sugar-free gum or chomping on carrot and celery sticks.
- Keep yourself well-hydrated by drinking plenty of water.
- If you’re used to smoking after meals, brush your teeth straight away or go for a long walk after you’ve eaten.
- Changing your environment according to how you’re feeling is critical – if you’re becoming irritable inside the house or office, head outside for a breath of fresh air, or vice versa.
- Hang out with non-smokers.
- Feeling low or stressed can make you head back to the shop for another pack of cigarettes. There are better ways to handle your stress. Chat to your GP about healthy stress-busting techniques that won’t make you or your little one sick!
- There’s medication available to help you quit before you fall pregnant, but not once you’re already pregnant. Chat to your GP about your options.
Hang in there
The first week of quitting is always the worst, but stick with it and you’ll soon find it gets easier. Keep picturing the little person growing inside you (either now or in the not-too-distant future) and think of how much healthier he’ll be because of the brave decision you’re making now!
Also know that statistics are on your side. According to a huge US study conducted in 2008, of the women who were confirmed smokers three months before pregnancy, 45 per cent were able to quit during their pregnancy. Unfortunately, though, of those women who quit smoking during pregnancy, 50 per cent relapsed within six months of giving birth.
Now’s the time. Stop making excuses, put your foot down and make the decision to quit for life! Your body and your baby will thank you for it.