It's a known fact that smoking is dangerous for an unborn baby, but according to the Pregnancy Risk Assessment and Monitoring System (PRAMS), approximately 10% of women smoke during their last three months of pregnancy.
Smoking during pregnancy comes with numerous health risks. Smoking increases the chance that a baby will be born prematurely or be underweight at birth. It also nearly doubles the risk of stillbirth.
The addictive qualities of nicotine make quitting smoking very difficult for many people, moms included. For others, the habit is a coping mechanism for dealing with stress.
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A new study from the University of Buffalo shows that women who learned to manage their negative emotions had more success at quitting smoking than those who didn't.
The randomized study included 70 pregnant women. The women verbalized wanting to stop smoking and also reported that they smoked in response to stress, anxiety, and anger. Half of the women received emotion regulation therapy (ERT) combined with cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The other half of the women received CBT and health and lifestyle education.
"ERT is an exposure-based therapy where counselors help participants imagine stressful situations that elicit strong urges or cravings to smoke, and then allow them to experience these feelings in session, without smoking. The women were also taught mindfulness skills and effective ways to cope with urges to smoke," says Clara Bradizza, Ph.D.,lead author of the study.
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The findings were remarkable. The women who participated in the ERT program had much higher rates of smoking cessation. In fact, 23% of the women in the ERT group remained smoke-free after two months, compared to none in the control group. The women in the ERT group also shared that they felt more confident that they could continue not smoking. The women who did continue tobacco use in the ERT program, smoked less than half of the cigarettes of those in the control group.
The study holds a lot of promise for women who wish to quit smoking during pregnancy. It also sheds light on the fact that many women smoke to deal with the negative stressors in their lives. If given the appropriate tools to help address issues such as poverty, financial insecurity, and pregnancy, perhaps these women would have an alternative outlet.