giving up smoking
Health

Giving up smoking when pregnant

Giving up smoking is challenging, but not impossible and now that you’re pregnant, quitting has never been more important.

Giving up smoking when pregnant

Quitting cigarettes is tough, but the more you know about your options and the benefits of stopping smoking, the easier the process will be. We’ve all heard the statistic that one in every two smokers will die of a tobacco-related disease. Did you know that within 20 minutes of quitting smoking, your circulation will improve and your heart rate and blood pressure will get lower? This reduces your risk of heart disease straight away. Within eight hours, the carbon monoxide level in your blood will drop and the oxygen level will go up. However, your pregnancy can also be a strong motivation to give up smoking, because you’re making this choice on behalf of your unborn child who is completely dependent on you.

Why is it harmful to smoke during pregnancy?

A baby in the womb gets everything from its mother. Nutrients and oxygen come via the placenta and umbilical cord. Smoking not only exposes the fetus to toxins in tobacco smoke, but it also damages placental function. When a person smokes, some of the oxygen in their blood is replaced by carbon monoxide. If a pregnant woman smokes, her blood and therefore her child’s blood will contain less oxygen than normal. This can cause the fetal heart rate to rise as the baby  struggles to get enough oxygen. The particles in tobacco smoke contain different toxic substances that change the blood’s ability to work in a healthy and normal manner. This can affect the placenta that feeds the baby.

Smoking increases your risk of having:

  • bleeding
  • a miscarriage
  • a premature labour
  • a baby with a low birth weight
  • a baby who is stillborn

Isn’t it too late if I’m already pregnant?

Giving up smoking at any stage in your pregnancy is good for you and your baby – it’s never too late. As soon as you stop, the chemicals will start to clear from your body and your baby will get more oxygen. So give yourself and your baby a head start by giving up for good. Even if you haven’t managed to stop smoking in the past, you can do it this time. Up to 40% of all pregnant women who smoke have successfully quit.

Should I tell my midwife?

Tell your midwife or doctor if you’re still a smoker at your next appointment. Honesty is the best policy for you and your baby. Your midwife or doctor are there to help you, not judge you. You certainly won’t be the first mum-to-be they’ve seen who’s struggling to quit. Whatever your approach to stopping smoking is, your midwife or GP can help you. They will have information about local support programmes, as well as words of encouragement for you.

Quitting support

Visit www.quit.ie. There is a lot of information there, and an online quit plan that you can sign up to. It will assess your smoking habits, give advice on how to quit, and send you emails and tips to get you through the first few weeks.

You can also sign up for a QUIT smoking course with a HSE QUIT clinic.

Smoke-free zones

The following hospitals – NMH, The Rotunda, The Coombe, Cork University Maternity Hospital and The Midland Regional Hospital at Portlaoise are tobacco-free hospitals. This means that nobody is permitted to smoke anywhere on these campuses including E cigarettes.

Benefits of quitting smoking

  • Straight away: You will have fresher breath, hair and clothes – smoking is smelly. You will have more money in your pocket.
  • Within 20 mins: Your blood pressure and pulse rates begin to return to normal.
  • Within 1 day: Your risk of heart attack begins to fall.
  • Within 2 days: You will have a better sense of taste and smell.
  • Within 3 days: You will feel fitter as you will be less breathless.
  • After 1 year: Your risk of sudden death from a heart attack is almost cut in half. Your risk from cancer is also reduced.

If you would like to stop smoking contact your GP or the National Smokers’ Quitline 1850 201 203.

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Ask Allison

Q My sister-in-law and I both work three-day weeks and we help each
other out with child minding on our working days, which up until recently has worked out really well. Between us, our kids are aged between five and nine years – the problem is that it’s now become quite apparent that we have very different parenting styles. I prefer my two daughters (seven and nine) to have a structured day. For example, in my house, we have allocated times for television and iPads, etc. My sister-in-law, however, lets the kids run loose after school – homework is ignored and my kids end up wired after eating sugary treats all afternoon. I am considering looking at after-school childcare for the kids, but I’m worried that this is going to cause a family argument. Is there a diplomatic way that I can ask my sister-in-law to introduce some discipline into her child-minding days? It certainly doesn’t do her two kids any harm when I am minding them in my own house!

A
In a word, no, there is no diplomatic way to do this as it may very likely seem like your saying that your parenting style is better than
hers. As L’Óreal says, ‘now here comes the science bit.’ Dr. Kaylene
Henderson, a child psychiatrist, wrote a very interesting blog about ‘the
science behind the Mummy Wars’. She explains that before she had
children of her own she hadn’t been aware of how parents have a
very specific sense of the right parenting style. She also found that parents could be very definite in defending their chosen parenting style. Dr. Henderson, who describes herself as a curious, scientific, open-minded person, was surprised at how defensive parents could be and, at times, of their judgemental attitude towards each other. She explained the neurology of the Mummy Wars; okay, I’ll need you to bear with me for a second. Warning; I’m about to use some neuro-techie language.

Why do we judge each other?
As we have all had different experiences, this means that we all have very different memories stored in our brains. Most of our memories are ‘explicit’ memories – these are ones that we can recall easily such as important dates that mean something to us; important birthdays, special events or stories of and about our lives.
There is another type of memory called ‘implicit’ memory that plays a
key role in our parenting. This type of memory is the stuff that you do on autopilot. Psychologists call these heuristics or rules of thumb –
such as tying your shoelace, or driving your car (once you have learnt
to do both first!). Otherwise we’d really waste a huge amount of time
pondering over tasks that we have readily available to us. This seems to be where the science bit of our parenting style kicks in. This implicit memory goes all the way back to when you were an infant being parented by your parents. This is when you started the process of storing up how they did it into your memories.
Unless you make a conscious choice and effort to parent differently, what you saw and unconsciously learnt will be your automatic go-to parenting style.

We learn habits
This can really kick into gear when we feel our parenting style is
being mirrored or highlighted by disapproval from another parent. I know the cold sweat you feel when your child decides to make their outstanding bad behaviour performance at, of course, the most public and worst time. The implicit autopilot of how your parents dealt with these outbursts will flow unconsciously from you if you haven’t worked super hard to be aware and consciously change the old habits.
What’s happening for the on-looking parent is that they see you doing something they are used to doing, but you are doing it all wrong. Simply, because that is not how they know how to do it.

Find a way that works
You both have different parenting styles – who is to say which type is correct? You just need to know what works best for your family and that’s the bottom line. The irksome feelings won’t go away. You can talk to your sister-in-law, but I’m adding a caveat that it would be hard not to hurt her feelings. What we’re possibly looking at is that you prefer a more structured form of parenting, whereas your sister-in-law has a more permissive style. I’m not sure the two styles can mix, the mixture is a bit like oil and water.
If a collaborative shared form of parenting style can be agreed upon, then that is great, but our learnt hardwiring may prove difficult to change despite the intent to do so.
Perhaps, your own instinct of changing childcare might work best for you. In terms of making childcare work; the fit is ultimately the most
important aspect as you want a cohesive congruent feeling of the other caregiver to just ‘getting it’, like in any good partnership. Best of luck
with this and I wish you both well.

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ASK JESSICA

Q. I’m would like to start an exercise programme that will benefit my emotional health as much as my physical health, but I don’t know which type of class would be best. Should I consider choosing from yoga, pilates, tai chi, or could you recommend a class, please?

A It’s great that you have decided to get into exercise. The benefits to you are going to be great. You’ll sleep better, have more energy, better skin, reduced stressed, not to mention all the amazing physical benefits of your clothes fitting better, and looking healthy, trim and toned! My advice to you would be to try them all. Even if some don’t offer pay-as-you-go sessions, if you get in touch directly with the instructor, they will almost always let you try it out first to see if it’s for you. All of the above things that you mentioned are great for mental health, so it really will be a personal preference as to which you go for. On top of the classes you mention, all forms of exercise will give you great mental rewards so consider the not so obvious interval training sessions, bootcamp, and circuits too, as you will also feel on top of the world after a class like that.