Smoking during pregnancy. We all know it’s bad for our health and bad for our unborn baby’s health. So what happens if you are unable to quit when you find out that you are pregnant?
Rather than go into all the bad things that can happen I am going to tell you 10 things that you can do to reduce your risks while you are still smoking and will hopefully allow you to cut down gradually and eventually quit smoking on your own, in your own time, when you are well and truly ready to finally throw that packet of smokes/tobacco away for good, and if you aren’t ready yet then that is ok as well. It takes time to quit and may involve many attempts at quitting in the process. The more times you try to quit the easier it will be when you do eventually stop smoking, and you will have a better chance at quitting for good because you will already know what works and what doesn’t work for you.
1. Set yourself a limit of how many cigarettes that you can smoke a day for each week of your pregnancy. If you are used to smoking a pack a day (20 or more) start with the number that you would smoke on an average day and reduce that number by 1 smoke a day for each week or fortnight, eg 1 week or fortnight you will smoke 20 a day, the next week or fortnight you will reduce it to 19 a day and so on. If you found out you were pregnant at 4-5 weeks gestation and you smoke 25 cigarettes a day and choose to drop one a week then by the time you reach 25 weeks pregnant you could potentially only be smoking 5 cigarettes a day – not too bad in my opinion, and that means that by the time your baby is born you could potentially have managed to be down to only 1 smoke a day each week or may even have managed to kick the cigarettes for good!
2. Take care of yourself. While cigarettes aren’t good for your health there are other things that you can do to make yourself healthier while still smoking. Moderate exercise and eating healthy good quality foods are 2 things that you can do. Pampering yourself each time you manage to drop 1 cigarette, by treating yourself to a manicure/pedicure, a facial, a massage or a movie, you can make yourself feel good and reduce your stress levels, and by rewarding yourself each time you reduce your daily number of cigarettes that you smoke you are one step closer to being able to successfully quit. Each time you have a cigarette you are rewarding the nerve centers in the brain that have become addicted to the nicotine, so by rewarding yourself when you don’t have one you are slowly transferring the reward addiction across to something healthier, and better for you.
3. Don’t use junk food as a reward for not smoking! It is easy to do and it tastes good at the time but it isn’t good for your body either. Instead of rewarding yourself with junk food reward yourself with something healthy that you really like – for example a healthy food, like a fruit, that you really like but it is a seasonal item and to buy it when it isn’t readily available costs a lot more so you don’t normally buy it, instead of buying junk food spend that extra bit of money on that fruit. Your baby and your body will thank you for it.
4. Don’t beat yourself up if you have a bad day and smoke more than you had planned to. Shit happens, and sometimes we need to something like that to make ourselves feel better. Just start again the next day and do some things to make yourself feel good for each smoke you don’t have after that.
5. Talk to your family doctor or Obstetrician. They may be able to suggest some ways to help you either to cut down or to make yourself healthier even though you are smoking, or they may be able to refer you to someone that you can talk to who can provide advice for you. Sometimes we have underlying reasons for our smoking that can make it extremely difficult to quit, and talking to someone, even if it is a therapist or psychologist, can help us to acknowledge those issues which can pave the way to a healthier and happier you and may even help you to start the journey to quitting smoking.
6. Drink plenty of fluids. Smoking can cause snoring and constant coughing which can affect your hydration in a negative way. Drink 2-3 litres of water a day to make sure that you stay well hydrated and to prevent dehydration. If you struggle to drink plain water then try adding a small amount of low sugar cordial (one cap full) or a small amount of fresh fruit juice (50ml maximum) to your water for a bit of flavouring.
7. If your partner or other people living with you smoke ask them to smoke outside and away from you. It is well known that when you are around others who are smoking then you are more likely to smoke as well, and it is bad for a baby’s health to be exposed to cigarette smoke in the home so this is good preparation for when the baby arrives. Ask them to support you in this, tell them that it is important to you and make sure that they abide by it. If they refuse to abide by it then make sure that you stay away from them when they are smoking.
8. Set a goal for what you will do with the money that you will save. Setting a goal can help a lot when you are trying to cut down or quit smoking. If you normally smoked a pack (20 or more) a day but you are aiming to be smoking only 5 or 10 a day (or even less) by the time baby is born you have the potential to save quite a bit of money by the time your baby arrives. If you are spending an average of $100 a week on cigarettes and manage to get down to only smoking half of what you used to you will be saving $50 a week. If you get to that point by the time you are 20 weeks pregnant then you potentially have another 20 weeks to go where you will be saving $50 a week, over the full 20 weeks that amounts to a total of $1,000 that you have in your pocket! If you put that $50 a week into a savings account then by the end of your pregnancy that could pay for a lot of nappies, wipes, formula and other items, or you could use it to pay for a holiday or to pay out some debts. It gives you something to look forward to and can make you feel good about yourself to see the amount of money in your savings account getting bigger each week.
9. Take it 1 day at a time. It is very hard to cut down and even harder to quit smoking, and any other addiction as well. If you don’t succeed one day then start again the next day. You will find that the days that you succeed in cutting down start to happen more often until eventually you succeed in cutting down every time you put your plans into action. It may take a while, but eventually you will get there.
10. Don’t give up! It is so easy to give up when things are hard or difficult to do, but it is the worst thing that you can do, for both yourself and your baby. As said in an earlier section, if you fail one day then start again the next day, and the next day, and the next day. Keep trying and you will eventually succeed. It takes hard work to achieve something that you really want and you will feel really good about yourself if you keep at it and make it work. Find a buddy that you can talk to when you are having a bad day or week, it can be your partner, a close friend, or someone online that you don’t actually know in person but trust enough to talk to on a regular basis. Talking to someone can help a lot on those bad days and can help you to pick yourself up and try again.
“If you fail, don’t give up and walk away. Pick yourself up, brush yourself off, straighten your back and shoulders, lift your head up and try again. Keep trying until you succeed. It may take a thousand tries but there will come that last time when you get it right and it will be worth it all.”
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