Smoking During Pregnancy


I recently wrote an article on how smoking affects pregnancy. It had all the usual facts. For instance, smoking may make it more difficult for a woman to become pregnant. But if she is able to get pregnant, the baby is more likely to have a lower birth weight (5.5 pounds), physical and developmental abnormalities, and a 2-3 times greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). I also spoke how woman are more likely to have excessive bleeding during delivery than if they were a non-smoker.

I believe everyone knows that smoking is bad for themselves and those around them. I also believe everyone knows that smoking is bad for your unborn child. And, I think everyone knows that smoking is bad for your nursing baby (both via the breast milk and secondhand smoke). But do we really understand? For instance, if you approached a pregnant woman smoking and told her these facts listed above, would she be surprised or just roll her eyes and say, “I know, now leave me alone.”

Smoking cessation can be difficult for the average smoker, but now imagine a pregnant woman trying to stop smoking. She is probably a little stressed by her physical and soon to be environmental changes. Smoking may be a source of comfort for her during this time. So the question becomes, how do we help pregnant woman stop smoking? The answer seems to be: GO SHOPPING.

Crazy isn’t it? Not the answer you were expecting? Well, hold on while I explain. Psychologists often utilize behavioral interventions which rearrange a person’s environment to reinforce appropriate behavior patterns. At the same time, they provide negative reinforcement for inappropriate behaviors. These type of procedures have successfully been used in those with substance-abuse problems. These behavioral interventions have been coined contingency management.

The concept of contingency management in smoking cessation is a somewhat new approach. In this situation, smoking cessation is reinforced when the smoker has a negative biochemical-marker test. So if the smoker’s urine-cotinine level was below a threshold, they would receive a reward.

That leaves the question of what “the reward” should it be? In pregnant women who were smokers, they decided to use vouchers for shopping. In the group that was being managed, the voucher would increase every week as long as the biochemical verification was below the threshold. If it were too high, the voucher amount would go back down, but could be returned to the higher level with two consecutive negative test results. The maximum voucher amount was $ 45. This group was then compared to a control group who was given a lower value voucher ($ 10-15) who did not have a biochemical verification requirement.

Researchers found that 40% of the women in the contingency management group, were able to maintain smoking cessation throughout the pregnancy, compared to 10% in the control group. Interestingly, only 1 participant reported using a stop smoking aid during the study. That woman used nicotine gum during the first week of the study.

There was another point made by this study, the babies born to those who quit during the pregnancy were healthier. They trended toward being bigger, stronger and reaching full term than those born to the smokers in the study.

A follow up study looked at weight-gain in moms during the pregnancy after smoking cessation while using this same type of contingency management study design, and found that the abstinent women did have higher weight gain. But it was attributed to having a larger baby in utero, rather than some type of excessive weight gain due to smoking withdrawal, as is sometimes seen in smoking cessation.

So obviously this type of contingency management treatment is effective at creating smoking cessation, but it can get very expensive. Not everyone will be able to afford the testing or the reward. However, this study reveals a powerful influence in the world of smoking cessation.

It seems that time and time again, if the reward is large enough, the person will quit smoking. This means you just need to find a reward that you want, and you have to really want it. Perhaps having a healthier baby is that reward; or lowering your risk of bleeding and death during delivery is that reward; or decreasing your healthcare costs might be that reward. This is just another example of us too often focusing on the method to quit and not the reason. Ultimately, it’s the reason why you’re quitting that determines whether you’ll be successful or not.

Do you want to give your child the best start in life? Perhaps you’ve learned something about what it takes to quit and so now you’re ready to make that decision. If you’re ready to quit then get some stop smoking information now. Visit us today and read about all the stop smoking benefits and learn how to stop smoking. You might even find which aids might be best for you. But the important thing is, you have to know why you’re quitting – then stick to it. Tim Frymyer is a licensed respiratory therapist who is dedicated to helping you quit smoking without gimmicks.

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