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The good news is that more women are able to stop smoking during pregnancy than during any other comparable period in their life. Concerns about the baby give them the added motivation needed to finally kick the habit. One study found that 45% of pregnant smokers were able to give up cigarettes during their pregnancy. (Szabo, 7-28-2008) The bad news is that half of these expectant mothers had picked the habit back up again within 6 months after their delivery, according to the CDC. And according to the American Legacy Foundation, an organization which fights against tobacco use, up to 80% will resume smoking within a year. (ibid) This is troubling, because the effects of secondhand and third-hand smoke aren’t exactly healthy for children either. (See the chapter on smoking in our book Child Maltreatment: A Cross-Comparison.) So here are some tips to help you quit smoking and give up cigarettes forever:

  1. While it’s best to go cold turkey, if you are unable to do that, start cutting back as much as you can as soon as you find out you’re pregnant. Research has found that women who quit before the 3rd month of pregnancy can eliminate most of the increased risks that come with smoking. (Murkoff & Mazel, 2008) So if you need to take a few weeks to cut back in preparation for quitting, that’s okay. Do what you need to do to quit for good.

  1. It’s not an all or nothing deal. While we want you to quit completely, every cigarette you don’t smoke is a win for you and your baby, and quitting anytime will help your baby, even if it’s in the last month of pregnancy. Just keep in mind that cutting down doesn’t help if you compensate for the fewer cigarettes by taking deeper, more frequent puffs.

  1. Try posting pictures of your baby’s ultrasound inside your car, around the house, or anywhere else you might be inclined to smoke. Better yet, laminate a picture and attach it to the pack of cigarettes themselves, just like a graphic warning label on the carton.

  1. When you feel the urge to smoke, re-read the section on the consequences of smoking during pregnancy. How relaxing will that cigarette actually be if it results in a more hyperactive child later? Or when you’re staying up late at night with a colicky baby?

  1. If you slip up, forgive yourself and put it behind you. Smoking one cigarette is better than backsliding and smoking several because you’re telling yourself “Now I screwed up, so what’s the point?”

  1. Whenever you feel the urge to smoke, try this technique: Take several deep breaths, pausing between each one. Then take a deep last breath, and hold it in while you strike a match. Exhale slowly, blowing out the match as you do so. Now pretend it was a cigarette and crush it out. This exercise gives many people a psychological placebo effect that helps reduce the urge.

  1. Understand that you may cough more initially than you did when you were smoking. This happens because the lungs start to clear out secretions that have accumulated. The worst withdrawal effects will last anywhere from a few days to a few weeks, depending on how heavy of a smoker you were before. Keep this in mind when you’re struggling: It won’t last forever. You can suffer through a few weeks for your baby.

  1. Visit, for additional help to quit smoking.

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