Smoking makes it harder for a developing fetus to get oxygen. Quitting can be tough, but smoking cessation aids such as natural remedies, nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), and apps can help you stick with your plan to quit and lead to better health for you and your baby.
If you’re pregnant and currently smoke, you may have come across the myth that nicotine withdrawal will hurt your developing baby. In reality, continuing to smoke during pregnancy is more likely to cause harm, and quitting smoking as soon as you can is the healthiest step for you both.
Smoking exposes you to toxic and cancer-causing substances, including arsenic, formaldehyde, and lead.
You may already know some of the ways these substances can affect your health overall. During pregnancy, smoking presents some additional risks, including:
- preterm birth and low birth weight
- cleft lip or palate
- sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
- placenta previa
- deep vein thrombosis
Experts suggest quitting by week 15 of your pregnancy may offer the most benefits, but quitting smoking at any point in your pregnancy can support your baby’s health. Stopping smoking before your baby arrives also means you’ll be protecting them from the effects of secondhand smoke, such as asthma, ear infections, and bronchitis.
Ready to stop smoking, but not sure how to start? These seven tips can help.
But, as you work toward quitting, you might find yourself smoking when you didn’t intend to. If this happens, try not to worry or feel ashamed about smoking again. It can take anywhere from
Each smoke-free day can help your baby grow stronger and get more oxygen, adding to your progress. What’s more, you can try quitting again right away.
Keep in mind, too, that the cold turkey approach doesn’t work for everyone — and that’s OK.
If you worry that withdrawal symptoms from quitting nicotine completely will feel too overwhelming to manage, NRT may also help you quit smoking.
Research from 2022 highlights that faster-acting forms of NRT, like gum, lozenges, and sprays are probably safer to use during pregnancy than longer-acting forms like the nicotine patch. This is because faster-acting NRT limits fetal exposure to nicotine.
It may also be safer to avoid prescription smoking cessation medications such as bupropion or varenicline unless your doctor says otherwise. The risks of taking them during pregnancy remain relatively unknown.
Before starting any form of NRT, it’s best to consult with your doctor or birthing professional, such as a midwife, and make a plan together.
You’re more likely to maintain your progress when quitting smoking if others in your household do not smoke or are also working on quitting, according to 2018 research.
If anyone you live with smokes, you may want to encourage them to quit with you. This can give you an accountability buddy, plus make it more likely your home will be smoke-free when the baby arrives.
You may also find it helpful to remove any reminders of smoking from your living space to help keep your mind off of it. This could mean throwing away cigarettes and lighters, as well as phasing out furniture and clothing that smell like smoke.
Channeling your energy into a different activity is a common strategy when it comes to smoking cessation.
Popular substitute activities include:
- taking a walk
- drinking a glass of water or cup of tea
- doing crafts like knitting or origami
- chewing gum
In a small 2019 study exploring techniques to help overcome barriers to quitting smoking in pregnancy, some participants said exercise helped relieve stress and distract them from the thought of smoking.
Some examples of complementary approaches include:
- Acupuncture: This approach may reduce nicotine withdrawal symptoms, which can help you stick with your plan to quit. Not only do experts consider acupuncture generally safe during pregnancy, this approach may also help you manage pregnancy symptoms like aches and pains.
- Hypnotherapy. Hypnotherapy can help boost your confidence in your ability to stop smoking, and some evidence in a 2022 research review suggests it may prove more effective than NRT. Since hypnotherapy doesn’t involve any medications, it may be especially beneficial to try during pregnancy.
- Mindfulness meditation. Meditation can help you handle strong emotions that may prompt the urge to smoke. In a 2016 review, 25.2% of participants who used mindfulness training to quit smoking remained abstinent for 4 months or longer, compared with 13.6% of participants who didn’t try mindfulness approaches.
Smoking cessation apps can be effective, but it’s important to consider the quality of the app and whether it’s backed by evidence.
If you live in the United States, you can also sign up for the text-based program SmokefreeMOM, which will send you daily text messages encouraging you to stay on track.
They can also help you figure out an appropriate quitting pace and offer guidance on smoking cessation aids, such as NRT or natural remedies, that you can safely use during pregnancy.
Your doctor may also refer you to a mental health professional who can offer emotional support through any challenges that arise as you work toward quitting.
Quitting smoking during pregnancy is one of the most significant ways you can support good health outcomes for you and your baby.
Without a doubt, quitting can be challenging, and it’s very common to start smoking again as you try to quit. Of course, that doesn’t mean you have to give up. Many people stop smoking numerous times before they go fully smoke-free, so you can always try again.
Remember, too, that support from your doctor, birth team, and loved ones can go a long way toward making your quitting journey successful.
Courtney Telloian is a writer with work published on Healthline, Psych Central, and Insider. Previously, she worked on the editorial teams of Psych Central and GoodTherapy. Her areas of interest include holistic approaches to health, especially women’s wellness, and topics centered around mental health.