RALEIGH, N.C. — Statistics show pregnant women know they need to quit smoking to have a healthy baby, but many women cannot. Now, there is a program that is helping them kick the habit.
Jennifer Snell used to spend her breaks at a Durham car dealership outside smoking. Today, she is enjoying the time with her 5-month-old son, Dylan.
Snell smoked for 10 years, including the time she was pregnant with her first son.
"Every couple of hours, I got really edgy and nervous," she said.
With Dylan, she wanted to do everything she could to have a healthy baby, including giving up smoking. Smoking during pregnancy increases a baby's risk of low birth weight, sudden infant death syndrome, respiratory problems and ear infections. Despite the risks, most pregnant women cannot quit.
"Approximately 30 to 40 percent quit as soon as they find out that they are pregnant, so that means 60 to 70 percent are continuing to smoke," said Duke cancer researcher Kathryn Pollak.
Pollak leads Baby Steps, a study to help pregnant women kick the habit. Participants receive seven counseling sessions and free smoking cessation aides.
Studies show using nicotine patches or gum are safe during pregnancy. The nicotine does reach the baby, but researchers point out that the items just have nicotine in them, while a cigarette can have 4,000 chemicals.
"They aren't getting carbon monoxide. They're not getting arsenic. They're not getting formaldehyde, acetone -- all the vicious things in cigarettes," Pollak said.
Snell's prental clinic enrolled her in the study. She said the patch helped, but said the counseling and support made all the difference. She credits the study for helping her have a healthy baby and her son for helping her kick a life-threatening habit.
"If it weren't for him, I probably wouldn't have done it," she said.
Since brain development is greatest in the third trimeseter, researchers prefer to treat women in the early to middle part of pregnancy. That way, they are smoke-free for the last three months. If you are interested in enrolling in the Baby Steps study, you can call