You've probably heard a million times that smoking is bad for you, particularly if you're pregnant. But since at least 10 percent of expectant moms in the U.S. still light up each year, here's a reminder: Tobacco has been linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, low birth weight, premature delivery, stillbirth, and developmental problems. "For smokers, quitting is the most important thing they can do to ensure a healthy baby," says Cheryl Healton, Dr. P.H., president/C.E.O. of the American Legacy Foundation, whose EX campaign focuses on changing the way people think about smoking. No one said kicking the habit is easy, so here are some tips to help:
* Pick a "quit day" -- the sooner the better -- and mark it on your calendar. On that date, get rid of all cigarettes and ashtrays in your home, car, and office, and declare those places smoke-free.
* Organize your cheerleaders. The encouragement of family and friends can be invaluable. If they smoke, ask them not to do so around you.
* Tell your doctor about your efforts, and get her approval before using quitting aids such as nicotine replacements (gum, patch, lozenge, spray) or medication, which are generally not recommended for pregnant women, except for very heavy smokers.
* Write down when you're most likely to smoke. Then avoid those triggers. Always have a cigarette after a meal? Go for a walk instead.
* Give yourself a daily reminder of why you're quitting. Post a list of reasons -- or a snapshot of your ultrasound -- on the refrigerator.
* Stock up on oral substitutes such as sugarless gum or toothpicks.
* Distract yourself from cravings. Get a massage, paint your nails, knit, or do anything else that keeps your mind and hands busy.
* Seek support. Counseling can double your success rate, so consider joining a smoking cessation group. Ask your doctor or hospital for organizations in your , or call a quit-line like the National Cancer Institute’s at 877-448-7848.
* Prepare for withdrawal symptoms. Irritability, trouble sleeping, dizziness, and headaches may last for a few weeks. To help combat them, exercise, stay hydrated, get rest, and avoid caffeine and alcohol.
* Don't be discouraged by slipups -- they're normal. Instead, choose another quit day and get back on track. And once you kick the habit, stay smoke-free. One study found that about half of expectant moms who quit smoking light up again within six months postpartum -- even though second-hand smoke is a leading cause of SIDS, ear infections, asthma, and other respiratory problems in children. What's more, kids whose parents smoke are twice as likely to become lifetime smokers themselves. Says Dr. Healton: "Quitting for good is a gift that keeps on giving."