Exercise To Stop Smoking In Pregnancy

Though most women are aware of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy, some 17% of UK women, and 20% of US women confess to smoking while pregnant. Quitting smoking is hard any time, but pregnant women trying to quit have a double load of guilt on their shoulders, making it even harder for them to give up the emotional crutch of cigarettes. Some of the side effects of smoking during pregnancy include lower birth weights, a higher incidence of infant mortality, learning difficulties, behavioral problems and childhood asthma. But the newest research shows that exercise can be a helpful aid in encouraging pregnant women to stop smoking.

Unsuccessful Efforts

Many pregnant women try to quit or at least cut back on cigarettes, but without any support or help, these efforts remain unsuccessful. The best method for quitting smoking is two-pronged, involving both nicotine replacement and behavioral therapy. But experts are concerned that the nicotine replacement therapy can be harmful to the fetus.

Now, doctors can help their pregnant patients quit smoking by recommending exercise. The latest study suggests that exercise is effective in reducing nicotine cravings, so that smokers can quit.  Experts from St. George's of the University of London headed up by Michael Ussher executed two pilot studies to see if exercise might help pregnant women stop smoking.

In both of these studies, pregnant women over the age of 18, who smoked at least one cigarette per day, were brought into the study between weeks 12 and 20 in their pregnancies. In one study, the participants exercised under supervision, once a week, for a six week period. In the second study, the women exercised twice a week for six weeks, then tapered off to a once a week session for 3 more weeks. In both cases, the women were urged to add additional independent exercise to their routines. The participants also received counseling and tips to make quitting smoking easier.

Full Quarter

A total of 32 women participated in the pilot studies and a full quarter of them quit smoking prior to delivery. This number resembles that of non-pregnant smokers who quit with the help of nicotine replacement. Other than quitting smoking, additional benefits were reported by the participants, including weight loss, fewer cravings, and better self-image.

Dr. Ussher commented that, "These results are very encouraging and we are now conducting a randomized controlled trial with 850 women. Regular exercise is ideal for any pregnant women who smoke as it’s obviously safe and the benefits are enormous."


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