23w, 6d. One of the things that I take for granted living in NYC is pretty mundane: no smoking in restaurants and bars—but I’m reminded of it whenever we travel to places that don’t have similar no smoking policies. Like many people, I really and truly hate the smell of cigarette smoke—and now that I’m pregnant, I make a concerted effort to avoid being near it at all, including dodging smokers walking in front of me on the sidewalk, moving upwind of smokers, etc. The smell makes me gag and I can’t think of a reason that my fetus would enjoy some secondhand smoke as much as she seems to like, say, chocolate croissants. But I get that not everyone hates cigarette smoke with the same fervor that I do—including some fellow pregnant women.
In recent weeks, I’ve seen a handful of obviously pregnant (say, five- or six-months along) women with a lit cigarette in hand. I find it hard to keep my jaw from dropping when this happens, given all of the info available about smoking’s impact on a pregnancy (thank you, March of Dimes), including an increased risk of stillbirth or miscarriage, placental abruption, placenta previa, birth defects, low birthweight, and premature birth. That seems like an awful lot of good reasons to not smoke during pregnancy.
Now, granted, I don’t personally know the pregnant smokers I’ve seen on the street. Maybe they’re trying to quit, maybe they’ve cut back dramatically—or maybe they just don’t care. And while I’m astonished that anyone would continue to smoke during pregnancy (because I think it’s a gross habit, period, but especially because of all of those known health risks), I assume that they’re doing so with the knowledge of all of those risks (also assuming that they’ve mentioned their smoking to their doctor, that they’re seeking prenatal care—yes, I’m aware that I’m making a lot of assumptions). Either way, I don’t see it as my place to say anything to them because a) I’d be pretty pissed if some stranger came up to me on the street to lecture me about my behavior, b) I don’t know anything about the particulars of their situation and c) um, I hate confrontation—and in NYC, you never know what’s going to come flying at you. I’ll just throw in a d) here for the hell of it—I’ve written before about drinking non-alcoholic beer in public while pregnant and getting all kinds of dirty looks for it, and that kind of judgment from others would never do a thing to make me change my ways, even if I were drinking alcohol—so why would I expect a pregnant smoking stranger to grind up her butt and declare she’s through with smoking simply because I said something? On the flip side, maybe someone should be speaking up for the fetus when he/she can’t?
I can’t imagine ever telling another woman what to do with her body, regardless of what I think of her choices, but maybe this situation feels differently to others. What would you do if you saw a pregnant smoker? Am I wrong to stay mum? Leave a comment!