Giving up smoking - your options

Advice on your options for giving up smoking, with information on nicotine replacement therapy, hypnosis, counselling and more
Stopping completely

Ideally this is the best way to stop smoking as you immediately cut exposure to all smoking related toxins. Roughly one in twenty people succeed this way as as you will unfortunately have to deal with the side effects and cravings associated with nicotine withdrawal (these do only last a couple of weeks though). However, if you prepare yourself and focus on the fact that any side effects experienced are actually a sign of your body clearing its systems and becoming more healthy, it can be done.

If you decide to quit this way you should make sure that you get lots of support from your family and friends, try and avoid 'smoking' situations and think up a distraction strategy for coping with cravings. As there is no evidence that the stress associated with stopping smoking causes any harm to your baby, with a little will power, a lot of support and a strong plan of action, you will be able to simply stop smoking.

Cutting down

Many smokers decide to cut down before they stop for good. While this is theoretically a good way to proceed, research has found that smokers who do this tend to inhale more deeply on the cigarettes they do smoke, meaning the level of exposure to cigarette toxins is roughly similar.

If you decide to try this approach you should set deadlines for yourself - how much you are going to cut down each week and when you will stop completely. Ideally, when taking this approach you should aim to be completely cigarette free by week 14 of your pregnancy as the adverse effects that smoking has on foetal development can be reversed if you stop before this time.

Counselling

Talking to a counsellor qualified in helping people give up smoking, or even regularly attending a support group, roughly doubles your chances of staying smoke free. There are a huge number of organisations available to help, from the NHS smoking in pregnancy helpline (0800 169 9 169), to NHS and private counsellors, your GP and midwife to local support groups - talk to your doctor about what services are suitable and available in your area.

Some choose to undertake complimentary therapies such as acupuncture and hypnotherapy in their quest to giving up. While there is little scientific evidence about their effectiveness, they do appear to help some. If you decide that a complimentary approach is right for you, make sure you tell your therapist that you are expecting before you being treatment as they may need to tailor the treatment to suit your circumstances.

NRT

NRT or nicotine replacement therapy has helped many quit smoking for good and statistics show that the use of NRT doubles your changes of staying smoke free, with a 1/10 success rate in people who use this method of support. There are a variety of NRT options available but they all work on the basic principle of releasing nicotine into your bloodstream as a means of reducing the physical withdrawal symptoms from cigarettes.

While the benefits of NRT on giving up smoking are clear, it is not an approach that is routinely recommended for use in pregnancy. This is because the influence of nicotine on the developing foetus is unknown - theoretically it could play a role in some of the unfortunate effects that smoking in pregnancy has.

Generally, other methods of non-invasive support are preferable, however if an expectant mother is a particularly heavy smoker or finding it especially difficult to give up, then NRT can be used. In these circumstances Dr's are likely to recommend a form of NRT as exposure to nicotine alone (especially if it is at a lower dose to which smoking would deliver), is preferable to the concoction of chemicals inhaled when a regular cigarette is smoked.

Some methods of NRT are recommended over others because of the level and longevity of nicotine exposure they provide.....
  • Gum - Chewing special nicotine infused gum is one of the better NRT options for pregnant women as nicotine is absorbed through the lining of the mouth providing relatively short but effective exposure. Nicotine gum also has the benefit of keeping your mouth busy when cravings hit.
  • Lozenges - Again, these are preferable in pregnancy as nicotine is delivered through the lining of the mouth for an isolated period of time. Some lozenges are designed to be sucked and dissolve (and release nicotine) slowly, while others dissolve quickly under your tongue.
  • Sprays - The nicotine in nasal sprays is absorbed quickly through the blood vessels in the lining of the nose, again providing direct, short term relief. Take care to administer the nasal sprays carefully and as instructed as they could irritate sensitive pregnancy skin.
  • Patches - These are probably the most commonly used form of NRT, however they are one of the least preferable methods to use in pregnancy as nicotine exposure is concentrated and continuous. If using nicotine patches during pregnancy you should choose varieties that deliver 16 hours of lower level nicotine exposure rather than high level 24 hour patches.
When considering NRT during pregnancy it is important to consult your doctor who will be able to talk you through your options and guide you to other forms of support that will enhance your chances of giving up for good. Additionally, it is essential that you do not smoke while using NRT as this doubles your body's and your baby's exposure to nicotine.

There are a range of options available to you when you decide to give up smoking, by talking with your doctor and deciding on a course of action that you are happy with, and confident that you can cope with, you will be more likely to give up for good.

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