Only Thirteen Percent Of Women Quit Smoking During Pregnancy

A new study out of the UK has found that an overwhelming 87% of mothers smoke during pregnancy

I really do try not to judge what other people do in their lives. Really, I do.

I find it very hard not to give a sideways glance when I see a pregnant woman smoking. It’s hard for me to rationalize how someone can inhale carbon monoxide into a blood stream their baby is using to fuel and grow their new little bodies. But then, I have never been a smoker and can’t fathom an addiction that is strong enough that I would need to decide between it and the health of my child.

According to a recent review, few smoking women even try to quit when those two lines show up on the test and of those who do, many pick up a cigarette again months after the baby is born. The findings are heart breaking.

The UK-based review that was published early last week in the scientific journal Addiction looked at upwards of 19,000 pregnant smokers, and focused on looking at smoking secession programs run by the National Health Service.

“Researchers found that among the women who were offered the help, only 13 percent were able to quit sometime during the pregnancy and remain off the cigarettes until giving birth. The remaining 87 percent of women either tried to kick the habit and failed, or they did not attempt to quit at all.

“Of those who did manage to quit, the review found 43 percent started smoking again within six months of childbirth,” the CBC reported. The findings suggest that whatever support that is being provided to pregnant smokers is not doing its job.

Smoking is dangerous in pregnancy—this is not news to anyone, plain and simple. Having never been a smoker myself, even I know that smoking risks low birth weight and complications after birth.

And yet, “[d]espite public health messages that warn of harm such as miscarriage and premature birth, an estimated 10 percent of women in the U.S. and Canada, and 17 percent of women in the U.K., still smoke during pregnancy,” CBC reported.

So many women who do manage to quit during their pregnancies go back to smoking so soon after the baby is born. This alone proves there can be little doubt that the addiction is strong. Having the strength to find a way to kick it for the health and well-being of a baby must be an unimaginable struggle—but it is a struggle that is worthwhile.

We know that awareness campaigns can and do have a positive effect on reducing harmful behaviour. But we also know that all the awareness in the world will never entirely eliminate those behaviours; many people have seriously struggled with trying to quit, while many other—knowing their behaviour is harmful—simply don’t care.

Not understanding the intense draw of addiction, I own that anything I say about how one should “just quit” for the sake of your baby will come off wreaking of ignorant judgment.

It’s true, I don’t understand it. I understand addiction is real. I also understand that as moms we do whatever we can to keep our kids safe once they are born, so I can’t wrap my head around inhaling carbon monoxide straight into developing lungs day after day after day.

The review was conducted to determine if current programs that exist to educate women on the dangers of smoking are effective. If so few women quit and so many who do resume so soon after, clearly more needs to be done to help smokers fight harder to stop, for the sake of their unborn baby, and ultimately themselves. 

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