Reducing the percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy is a NSW Health priority. Tobacco smoking in pregnancy is a main contributor of stillbirth and is associated with poorer pregnancy outcomes.[1, 2] These outcomes and high risks on the baby's health can also cause more burden for mothers and families who are already facing difficult circumstances.The prevalence of smoking during pregnancy in NSW has declined in the long-term to 8.8 per cent in 2019. However, it has been relatively similar over the last 5 years (in 2015 the rate was 8.9 per cent), and there are still over 8,000 who smoke in pregnancy.
Supporting them to quit smoking in pregnancy is a priority because of the immediate and longer-term health-related harms associated with maternal smoking.
If you smoke or your partner smokes near you while you're pregnant, your baby is exposed to all the nasty harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke. Smoking while pregnant reduces the blood flow to the baby and increases the risk of ectopic pregnancy and miscarriage, having a premature baby, having a small and sickly baby and the baby dying soon after birth.
If you want to give your baby the best start in life quit smoking before you get pregnant or as early in pregnancy as possible. If your partner smokes, they should quit too or at least not smoke around you and support you. Quitting early will help to ensure that things go well for your baby's growth and development, during the birth and beyond. It also means that you will be in better shape to take on the demands of being a new parent. It's never too late to stop smoking for there to be health benefits.
Most pregnant women want to quit smoking, but quitting can be hard - even when motivated to stop smoking for the health and wellbeing of your baby and yourself.
Women who are very dependent on nicotine (that means smoking more than 10 cigarettes a day and having your first cigarette within 30 minutes of waking) will often have strong cravings and withdrawal symptoms when they stop smoking. Some women prefer to quit 'cold turkey' and tough it out for a week or two at which time these symptoms tend to lessen. For others this method simply doesn't work.
The national guidelines for smoking and pregnancy recommend that if a pregnant woman has tried to quit 'cold turkey' and has failed, she should be offered nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) to help control cravings and manage withdrawal symptoms.
NRT products (gum, lozenge, inhalator, patches and spray) do contain nicotine but at much lower levels than in cigarettes - and none of the other 7000 nasty chemicals found in cigarette smoke. This makes NRT less harmful to the baby than continuing to smoke.
If you are keen to try NRT to help with your quitting, it is important to be shown what products are available, how to use them correctly and what dosage to take.
Ask your health professional (GP, midwife or smoking cessation advisor) to talk you through the NRT products available, or call the
NSW Quitline 13 78 48 for advice on quitting and the NRT products available. It can be useful to see what they have to say, even if you don't feel ready to quit. They are there to help, not judge you.
Remember: The best quitting method is the one that works for you. Support from family and friends and from a qualified counsellor usually helps enormously.