We were doing an interview with a midwife who specialises in substance misuse. She introduced us to two women who had smoked during pregnancy. Both had had premature babies, and were staying in hospital until their little ones were well enough to go home. Mum one had a little girl, she was so small she wasn’t able to eat properly and had to be fed through a tube up her nose by a nurse. This mother had tried to give up smoking whilst she was pregnant but the stress of every day life stopped her. She said she wished there was an equivalent of alcoholics anonymous for smoker’s who want to quit.
The second mother we spoke to was heart breaking, her little boy was so small he was being looked after upstairs in an intensive care unit and she sat in a darkened room alone worrying about her baby. This mother had managed to cut down from 40 cigarettes a day to just two, which is an amazing achievement, but you can tell she blames herself and her smoking for her baby being so small and poorly and she’s wracked with guilt.
The benefits of quitting smoking when you find out you’re pregnant are massive, for both baby and mother, and it’s not just health that’s improved. The money saved by not smoking can be put towards things needed for the family or even saved up for a treat or a special occasion. The trouble is that people forget smoking is an addiction, so we give pregnant smokers a lecture we just tell them to ‘stop’, and we ignore just how hard that can be.
If the focus was more on supporting pregnant women to give up, making sure her home is smoke-free environment, and helping her get through the challenges of quitting, more women might be able to face that challenge and succeed.