Women's Health

How to quit smoking when you are pregnant

It’s no surprise that smoking during pregnancy is dangerous — yet approximately 13 percent of women admitted to lighting up during the last three months of their pregnancies, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

Kicking the habit can be difficult, and since there isn’t enough information that nicotine replacement therapy is safe, you’ll have to rely on other methods.  

The American Cancer Society designated Thursday as its annual Great American Smokeout, so read on to find out what you can do to give up your addiction today.

1. Acknowledge your habit.
About 20 to 30 percent of women do not acknowledge they’re smokers when speaking to their medical provider at  first or second prenatal visits, according to Richard Windsor, professor of public health at George Washington University School of Public Health, 

In fact, a study published in the  Journal of Public Health Management and Practice found three out of four pregnant women had fibbed about their habits. Being honest with yourself about your smoking, even if it just a drag here and there, is key.

2. Make a commitment.
Once you’ve decided to quit, write a list of reasons why you are and refer to the list when a craving strikes. You should also set a target date to permanently stop, ideally within two weeks. 

“Mark it on your calendar: This is the date that you’re going to celebrate on an annual basis as the day you stopped smoking,” said Dr. Diane Ashton, deputy medical director of the March of Dimes.

3. Get support.
Asking for help is crucial to your success. Ask your medical provider for smoking cessation resources and therapist referrals, or find a support group, call a quit line, ask family and friends for support, or team up with someone else and quit together.  You should also instill a non-smoking policy in your home for family and guests.

4. Change your environment.
“It’s very important to be task-oriented,” said Windsor, who is also the author and program developer of A Pregnant Woman’s Guide to Quit Smoking. He suggested throwing out cigarettes, matches, lighters,  and ashtrays. In addition, identify your triggers and make a plan to avoid situations that could cause you to light up and handle stress in a different way.    

5. Cut back slowly.
Rather than quitting cold turkey, gradually kicking the habit is best, Windsor said.  Schedule your smoking times and places for the next five to seven days, and slowly start to cut back to a level you can manage. As you get closer to your target quit date, your addiction level will be greatly reduced.

6. Use the 'smoke holding' method.
Smoking in a deliberate way, also known as the “smoke holding method,” can help you cut back. Inhale and let the smoke linger in your mouth, count slowly, and mindfully blow it out. Repeat several times. 

“Even a regular smoker is going to begin to get some very specific physical feedback because the smoke is going to taste really bad, and that’s the whole point,” Windsor said.

7. Make a “yuck jar.”
Turning a pleasurable smell into one that you’re repulsed by can be effective. Get a jar and poke holes in the top; add a cup of warm water and add four or five crushed cigarettes; screw on the top and shake. When a craving strikes, count to 20 slowly, break up the cigarette in the jar, and inhale deeply from the jar. Then, imagine the toxins in your body and your baby’s body.

8. Be patient.
It’s challenging to quit a very addicting habit that you’ve probably had for years but remind yourself that a healthy life and healthy baby will be worth all the effort. 

“Understand that you might relapse but don’t give up the effort all together,” Ashton said.


Julie Revelant is a health journalist and a consultant who provides content marketing and copywriting services for the healthcare industry. She's also a mom of two. Learn more about Julie at revelantwriting.com.