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How to actually quit smoking before you get pregnant

Let’s do this.

By Adrienne Richardson, MD
August 29, 2017

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We don’t need to address how smoking isn’t good for your health – you’ve heard that already. But smoking while pregnant is a whole other ball game - it puts both you and your new baby at risk. Smoking significantly increases the risk of pregnancy complications and birth defects like Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), preterm labor, even miscarriage and stillbirth.

If you don’t know how to start or where to get help, your doctor or midwife can help. I see patients all the time who have difficulty quitting. The important thing is to remember that this doesn’t make you weak. Cigarettes are a drug. Drugs are addictive. This isn’t something you can just snap your fingers and be done with.

So let’s get started stopping.

Choose your “Quit Date”

If you’re not pregnant yet, choose a quit date that works for you. If you are pregnant, stop smoking right away. If you can’t stop yet, try to cut down as much as you can.

Find a program to help

Talk to your doctor about a program that can help you stop smoking. If you’re already pregnant, they’ll probably recommend you try other ways to stop smoking before using nicotine replacement or medicines. There just isn’t good data about the safety of these medications in pregnancy.

Clean house

Get rid of your cigarettes, ashtrays and lighters. Clean your house and clothes to get rid of the smoke smell. If you live with someone who smokes, discuss quitting together. If this is not an option, talk to the person about not smoking around you. When you can, avoid places where others are smoking.

Avoid triggers

Plan how you will handle your cravings during times when you tend to reach for a cigarette. Change your routine. For example, if you smoked in the car, start listening to audio books to steal your attention.

Crowd source

Ask friends who used to smoke for support and tips. Get counseling. People who use online, group, or one-on-one counseling are much more likely to stop smoking. Join a support group for people who smoke.

Congratulate yourself

Quitting smoking is really hard. Pregnancy and early parenthood are sometimes hard, too. You’re tackling some big stuff, so remember to congratulate yourself for any successes, even if they seem small. And don’t beat yourself up for messing up – take it one day at a time!

Don’t lose steam after birth

A lot of women quit smoking in pregnancy only to start again after baby is born. A new baby, little sleep, plus recovery from birth have the potential to add up to a serious craving. Meditation is a great way to fight it off, but talk to your doctor or midwife if you’re worried about postpartum depression.

If you’re thinking about becoming pregnant and you smoke, now is a great time to stop. If you can quit before you become pregnant, your risk of having a baby with low birth weight is lowered to the same as that of a woman who has never smoked.

About Adrienne Richardson, MD

Dr. Adrienne Richardson is an OB-GYN with HealthPartners Health Center for Women. She also delivers babies at Regions Hospital. She trained at the University of Minnesota for medical school and residency. In her personal life, Dr. Richardson has witnessed parents who have used new parenthood as impetus to find sobriety. This inspires her every day to help her patients achieve their goals of living healthier lifestyles. Healthy and happy people make the best parents! Dr. Richardson lives in St. Louis Park with her husband and two kids. She enjoys reading, gardening and birding.

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