Can I Use a Nicotine Patch to Help Me Quit Smoking While Pregnant?
You’ve probably heard that smoking is bad for your health, but if you’re pregnant you might have even more reason to try to quit smoking – your growing baby. There are many health concerns for both you and your baby that come from smoking during pregnancy, but there are ways to quit that are safe. The nicotine patch is just one way people stop smoking, but quitting during pregnancy can be more challenging and certain methods are safer than others.
What are the Effects of Smoking During Pregnancy?
Smoking during pregnancy is not only harmful to a mother’s health, but to the health of her unborn child. The developing baby is exposed to carbon monoxide and extremely harsh chemicals, including nicotine. When carbon monoxide enters the mother’s bloodstream it narrows the blood vessels that in the umbilical cord, which then reduces the amount of oxygen the baby receives. This, along with exposure to the various chemicals, can have the following consequences for the developing baby during pregnancy:
- Stress on the baby’s heart and increased heart rate
- A reduction of fetal breathing in-utero
- Placental abruption (the placenta separates from the uterine wall) and placenta previa (when the placenta partially covers the cervix)
- Preterm labor and birth
- Low birth weight
- Birth defects including malformations of the heart, extremities, muscles, and more
These are not the only problems these growing babies face. There are several other consequences that can be health-threatening and long-lasting after birth, including:
- SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome)
- General fussiness or colic
- Asthma and other respiratory weaknesses
How Can I Quit Smoking When I’m Pregnant?
The first step is to talk with your obstetrician about your health and the health of your baby. Each quitting method has its pros and cons, but they all have the positive goal of stopping smoking for the health of you and your child.
Just do it – Otherwise known as quitting cold turkey, simply stopping smoking is the best for your health, but might be the hardest to do. Pregnant women, however, might have more motivation because of the immediate health risks smoking poses to their baby’s health. If quitting cold turkey is too much for you, you can gradually step back the number of cigarettes you smoke each day. Improve your motivation to stick with it by:
- Making a list of the dreams and hopes you have for your baby
- Avoiding situations you know will make you want to smoke out of habit
- Finding ways to minimize stress in your life (exercise, a new hobby, etc.)
- Spending time in places where smoking isn’t allowed
Many women have tried and failed to quit smoking during pregnancy without some sort of plan or other aid. If you have given serious effort to quit without the use of nicotine replacements, but with no success, talk with your doctor about whether or not nicotine replacements are safe for you and your baby. Many obstetricians might rather have you use a product such as a nicotine patch or gum instead of continuing to smoke because of the effects of smoking during pregnancy, if those are the two options. However, there is still debate over whether or not nicotine in these forms is harmful to developing fetuses, especially when they are used in excess or while still smoking.
There are medications on the market such as Zyban that are nicotine free but work to help people quit smoking. There have not been any large studies done on the effects of these medications on pregnant women or their babies. Some women find that options such as counseling, acupuncture, and meditation are beneficial as they try to quit smoking during pregnancy. Make sure you speak with your healthcare provider before making any decisions, and keep trying.
[Featured Image Courtesy of Theeradech Sanin / FreeDigitalPhotos.net]