Stopping smoking before or during pregnancy is an important and worthwhile goal. It benefits both the baby and the mother.
Smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), reduced lung function, restricted growth and low birthweight in infants, and preterm delivery (the baby is carried for less than 37 weeks). Low birthweight is associated with heart disease, type 2 diabetes and being overweight in adulthood. Pregnant mothers who smoke increase their risk of complications during pregnancy; this can involve pain and/or bleeding during pregnancy and increased need for caesarean section delivery. They also have a greater risk of miscarriage and ectopic (outside of the womb) pregnancy, and the baby is more likely to be stillborn or die at or shortly after birth. After birth, infants may have a weaker immune system and are more prone to the development of asthma and chest infections compared to infants of nonsmoking mothers.
Choosing a way to quit
Individual counselling and behavioural support can help pregnant women quit smoking. Research shows that smoking cessation programs reduce the number of babies with low birthweight and preterm births, and increase the mean birthweight. A number of trials show that women who participate in smoking cessation programs are more likely to feel less stressed and depressed and have improved self-esteem, compared to women receiving usual care.
While quitting early in pregnancy produces the greatest benefits, quitting at any time during pregnancy reduces the risk to the baby. All women who continue to smoke should be offered help to quit throughout the course of their pregnancy.
Quitline provides an extended callback service specifically for pregnant callers. A Quitline counsellor calls at agreed times to provide information, assistance to deal with barriers, and generally provide encouragement and practical support with quitting. The counsellor schedules calls during pregnancy and after the birth. Quitline callers may receive between 4 and 10 calls as part of the extended callback service.
Quit Victoria also provides training to midwives to help pregnant mothers to quit smoking.