Quitting or reducing tobacco* use has many positive impacts for your health and your baby’s health.
It is most beneficial to quit or reduce use before getting pregnant, but addressing tobacco use at any point during your pregnancy has immediate health benefits for you and for your baby, and sets you and your family up for healthier futures.
QuitNow can help you make positive changes and assist you with navigating quitting or reducing tobacco use.
*Please note that this information refers only to commercial tobacco. QuitNow recognizes that traditional tobacco use is an integral part of Aboriginal culture in BC and Canada.
Why is quitting or reducing use good for me?
For my baby?
For your health:
Your immune system may be stronger and you will be less prone to colds and flu.
Your risk of smoking-related diseases including heart disease, stroke, cancers such as lung cancer, and lung diseases may reduce dramatically.
Your risk of post-partum depression may be lowered.
You may have more energy and your life expectancy may increase -- which means more time and energy to spend with your loved ones!
Quitting or reducing tobacco use is also beneficial if you are trying to get pregnant as it can help improve your fertility.
For your baby’s health:
Tobacco products contain nicotine, which can negatively affect fetal brain and lung development. Quitting or reducing use can help prevent this damage and increases the amount of oxygen your baby will get. By quitting or reducing tobacco, you will be helping your baby develop and grow. Benefits to your baby may include:
Improved brain and lung development.
Stronger immune system.
Higher chance of healthy birthweight.
Lower risk of preterm birth, birth defects, and miscarriage or stillbirth.
Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of asthma, sudden infant death syndrome, colic, and childhood obesity once your child is born. Quitting or reducing may help to lower these risks.
Children of parents who smoked cigarettes during pregnancy are more likely to smoke themselves as adults, and quitting during pregnancy helps lower this risk.
Quitting or reducing smoking also reduces your baby’s exposure to second- and third-hand smoke and related health issues.
- Second-hand smoke is the smoke breathed in by someone other than the person actively smoking. Exposure to second-hand smoke among children can lead to developmental and respiratory issues such as asthma.
- Third-hand smoke is the residue left on fabrics and surfaces from tobacco smoke. It mainly affects children, as they tend to crawl around and put things in their mouths that may have thirdhand smoke residue on them. Third-hand smoke has similar health effects to second-hand smoke.
How can I quit or reduce use during pregnancy?
Your body is going through many changes during pregnancy and after giving birth, and the idea of quitting or reducing smoking while pregnant may feel overwhelming. Remember, quitting or reducing smoking—at any time—gives you and your baby important health benefits that begin to positively impact you immediately.
Use the tips below to build your Quit Plan and remember that you can talk to a Quit Coach or your health care provider at any point along this journey for extra support.
1. Set a Quit Date or a Reduction “Start Date”
Some people may be concerned that quitting or reducing smoking during pregnancy can negatively impact their baby because of withdrawal symptoms or stress. Quitting or reducing smoking does not put stress on the baby and in fact is a great thing to do for your baby’s health. It is safe to make a quit attempt or reduce smoking at any point in your pregnancy, while trying to get pregnant, or after giving birth.
- Quitting or reducing use might be more manageable at certain times.
- Try to avoid especially stressful times, such as right after getting pregnant or just before or after giving birth.
- Talk to a Quit Coach for help setting your Quit Date.
Once you have your date set, mark it on your calendar and tell your loved ones. This can help keep you committed to your goals.
2. Determine your quit or reduction method(s)
It is a common misconception that if you are pregnant, you can only quit cold turkey (without any quit aids, such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy) but that is not true. There are tools you can use to help make your journey away from tobacco easier, and they are safe to use while pregnant.
- Behavioural support: Behavioural support is the most valuable tool for quitting or reducing smoking during pregnancy. For people who have quit smoking, continued counselling can also help prevent a return back to smoking, which is especially common after giving birth. Free behavioural counselling is available through QuitNow.
- QuitNow’s Quit Coaches will help you make a quit plan, choose a quit date or reduction “start date” that works for you, develop strategies to deal with cravings, and help you stay tobacco-free.
- Gradual Reduction: The gradual reduction method involves gradually cutting down the amount of cigarettes or other tobacco products you use each day. You can reduce until you have quit entirely, or reduce the amount you are using overall to a lower level. While quitting entirely is the best way to protect your health and your baby’s health, reducing can help lower exposure to toxins compared to continuing to smoke.
- Quit Aids: Behavioural support is the primary method recommended to help you quit or reduce smoking during pregnancy. However, if you have tried before and not had success, Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) may be an option to help you, in combination with behavioural support. NRT includes the nicotine patch, gum, spray, and lozenge.
- NRT helps to reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms by providing a small dose of nicotine without all the other chemicals found in tobacco. NRT is the safest way to consume nicotine (and is much safer than smoking for you and your baby) but using NRT during pregnancy still may carry risks. Talk to your health care provider to see if NRT could be an option for you.
Quit-smoking medications (Champix and Zyban) are not typically prescribed for those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. However, every person is different, and your health care provider will be able to help you decide what is best for you.
3. Build your support network
A supportive environment can help make your journey successful. It can help to ask for support from loved ones, especially those in your household.
You know best what kind of support you need. Talk to your loved ones and create a list of ways they can support you during your journey away from tobacco. Maybe it’s by distracting you during a craving, listening and providing emotional support, or being your cheerleader when you’re going through a rough patch.
You can also ask them to be involved in your counselling or conversations with your health care provider.
If you have a loved one that smokes, you can encourage them to quit or reduce with you or ask that they avoid smoking in your home and car (e.g. smoke outdoors). A smoke-free home can help prevent you from returning to tobacco use and is good for your health and your baby’s health!
You can also access support from others on their journeys away from tobacco on the QuitNow Community Forum.
4. Prepare for challenges
- Identify your triggers: Triggers are situations, people, or places that bring up the desire to smoke. Identifying your triggers can help you create a plan to manage them, e.g. If drinking coffee is a trigger, try switching to tea.
- Plan for cravings and withdrawal: Cravings are urges to smoke. Every craving is temporary, so find healthy ways to distract yourself until it passes. Plan ahead and come up with a list of activities you can do when you get a craving, e.g. Go for a walk around the block whenever you feel a craving coming on.
- What to do if you return to tobacco use or if you notice it increasing: Returning to tobacco use is common especially after giving birth, for many reasons including the major life changes associated with caring for a new baby. Continuing with behavioural counselling after giving birth can help prevent a return to tobacco use, as can using the strategies you’ve identified above to manage triggers and cravings.
If you end up returning to or increasing tobacco use after giving birth, go easy on yourself. Take a look at our resources for dealing with relapses, rely on your support network, and call a Quit Coach for extra support.
How can I support my partner through quitting or reducing smoking during pregnancy?
If your partner is quitting or reducing smoking during pregnancy, your support can make a world of difference. Someone who feels supported during their journey has a greater chance of quitting for good.
Ask what you can do to help
Be understanding and patient
Offer support, don’t nag
Offer to do smoke-free activities
Help create a plan for cravings and triggers (e.g. distractions, activities you can do together)
Celebrate their successes
Remember, experiencing a slip or returning to tobacco use is a normal part of the journey and can be especially common during pregnancy and after giving birth. If your partner does return to using tobacco, be patient and understanding and encourage them to keep trying.
If you smoke or use other tobacco/nicotine products, try to quit or reduce use with your partner. This is a great show of support and will also be beneficial for your health, your partner’s health, and your baby’s health!