Quitting Smoking During Pregnancy and Post Partum

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Quitting smoking during pregnancy has considerable positive health impacts for both women and fetus. Although approximately 10% of women use tobacco during pregnancy,Footnote 2 50% spontaneously quit or reduce their tobacco use.Footnote 3

On this page:

Impact on Women's Health

Many women who quit smoking during pregnancy do so "for the baby" rather than for themselves. However, tobacco use is an important issue that affects the health of women.
By quitting smoking you can:

Impact on Fetal and Newborn's Health

With respect to fetal and newborn health, cessation of smoking before the first prenatal visit can reduce the risk of complications during pregnancy to the same levels as those of non-smokers.Footnote 11 Although quitting early in pregnancy is most desirable, quitting late in pregnancy can also have benefits for women and for the fetus and newborn infant.Footnote 3

By quitting smoking you can:

Common Barriers to Quitting for Women

Social Context

In the context of many women's lives, smoking is often a secondary issue--to poverty, violence, single motherhood and other factors.

Some important things for you to consider are:

Who are my support networks?

  • Peers, family members, co-workers, partner, doctor, and/or midwife.

What about my partner?

  • Your relationship with your partner can affect your motivation and ability to quit.Footnote 21
  • Women who live with a partner who smokes find it harder to quit and to remain quit than those who do not.Footnote 22Footnote 23

When quit attempts are not working, what can I do?

  • Nutrition, exercise and vitamin supplements, including folate/folic acid, and stress reduction can improve smoking cessation.Footnote 24Footnote 25

Although many women quit smoking during pregnancy, 50% of them resume smoking within four months of giving birth, and 70-90% within one year of giving birth.Footnote 3Footnote 22 While these rates are similar to rates for other groups of quitters, unlike many other quitters, these women experience periods of prolonged abstinence from smoking prior to relapse.Footnote 11 Not being pregnant as well as the stresses associated with caring for a new baby leads many women to resume smoking.Footnote 11 However, pregnant women who quit smoking are more likely to stay quit during the postpartum period if they recognize the health benefits of cessation for both themselves and their babies.



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