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Smoking and Pregnancy: Quit, and Stay Quit
By the Quitter's Circle Staff
March 28, 2019

Smoking and Pregnancy: Quit, and Stay Quit

Welcoming a baby is an exciting time in a family’s life – and one that brings many changes. One of these changes may be your decision to quit smoking. If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, the time to quit – and make the effort to stay smokefree before and after the baby is born – is now.

Most women stop smoking spontaneously when they become pregnant. There are many reasons to quit smoking while pregnant, including protecting the health of the baby, since smoking while pregnant can increase the risk of pre-term delivery, miscarriage, cognitive impairment, low birth weight, and even sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Some women find it easier to stop smoking while pregnant due to a physical aversion to cigarette smoke and decreased withdrawal symptoms as the body changes during pregnancy.

Some mothers-to-be use their pregnancy as motivation to quit for good. Others may stop smoking during pregnancy without necessarily intending to quit for good. Quitting before or during a pregnancy is beneficial for the health of both the mother and the baby, but it is important for children to grow up in smokefree homes, too.

Don’t just limit your quit to nine months – keep it up! Create a quit plan to help you stay away from cigarettes during the nine months of your pregnancy and beyond. If you do slip-up after the baby is born, take a deep breath and know that you are not alone – many new mothers return to smoking after the baby is born. Learn your triggers, set a new quit date and try once more to create a smokefree family!

What Leads to Postpartum Smoking?

According to a 2016 study, 75% of women return to smoking within six months after the baby is born, and 80-90% relapse within a year. Understanding the reasons why some women who intended to quit go back to smoking may help new mothers and supporters anticipate their needs once the baby is born. 

  • Stress: Caring for a new baby, dealing with sleepless nights and adjusting to a new routine may trigger someone to return to smoking. If you have a partner or family member who can help care for your child, ask them to lend a hand when you need it. Having another person around can help you to relax and enjoy your new time as a parent, as well as potentially alleviate stress.
  • Physiological realities: After giving birth, some women may feel urges to smoke and withdrawal symptoms that they did not experience due to their body’s changes during pregnancy, causing them to pick up a cigarette. Talk to your healthcare provider about your desire to stay quit. They can help you find resources that are appropriate for you.
  • Social: Returning to old social circles and situations may also trigger urges to smoke. Ask your friends to try new smokefree activities with you, or find a group of moms to trade newborn stories with!
  • Motivation: Some women do not believe that their smoking is harmful for the baby once born, and are no longer motivated to stop smoking for their child. This is untrue: secondhand smoke is dangerous for children, as it may cause their lungs not to develop properly. Infants and children with parents who smoke are at greater risk for respiratory illnesses including asthma, middle-ear infections, and reduced lung growth. In addition, kids are more likely to grow up and smoke themselves if their parents are smokers.

But remember, creating a smokefree home isn’t a task you have to take on alone. If you have a partner that smokes, ask them to quit with you to help create a smokefree new family. You can all benefit from being smokefree together!

Turn Nine Smokefree Months into a Smokefree Lifestyle

There are many health benefits of quitting smoking that may allow you to better enjoy an active life with your child. There are financial benefits too. You can spend the money you save from not buying cigarettes on new clothes, toys, books - maybe even a crib - for your new child. At a national average of $6.28 for a pack of cigarettes, a pack-a-day smoker could save about $1,695 over the course of a nine-month pregnancy. Use the momentum of those nine smokefree months to keep up the quit and enjoy the potential health and financial benefits of quitting smoking.

Creating a smokefree lifestyle isn’t easy, especially while adjusting to your new responsibility as a parent. Make a plan to be smokefree and stick to it – and don’t be afraid to ask your friends and family for support. Give your baby — and yourself —a fresh start at a healthy life. 


See additional quit smoking resources from our partner American Lung Association.