Health Effects Of Postpartum Smoking On Mother And Baby

postpartum smoking

It is well-known that smoking during the reproductive years can put a woman at risk of various health problems right from infertility to cancer. Moreover, smoking during pregnancy can not only increase the risk of miscarriage and preterm delivery but also cause in-utero complications and fetal abnormalities. But what about postpartum smoking or smoking after delivery? Does it carry the same risk as smoking at any other time or is the mother at high risk of complications? Also, does it cause any effect on the child? Well, here’s everything you need to know about postpartum smoking and its effects on health.

The Development of Postpartum Smoking Behavior

The word postpartum indicates the period right after delivery, specifically used to define the first six weeks that come after childbirth. It is defined by a paradox of emotions as it is filled with extreme joy and relief but is also interspersed with increased vulnerability and adjustment pangs. This period to adjust to psychological and physiological changes is not only restricted to the baby but also applies to the mother, especially when it comes to habitual patterns.

Before getting to the fundamental ways in which you can develop habitual patterns that prevent both the infant and the mother from suffering the detrimental impacts of postpartum smoking, you should explore the other side. The basic question that we will be asking in this particular section is why women are drawn towards the habit of smoking, along with why pregnancy is an especially powerful factor in the development of such a habit:

-A study[1] published in the journal Women’s Health found that when women go through alleviated or suppressed phases of emancipation, they tend to gravitate towards smoking. Women can feel the urge to take up smoking due to the cycle of stress and relief that characterizes childbirth.

-Another study[2] found that mothers often cited smoking as one of the most effective ways to deal with their children, especially during infancy and adolescence. In this case, postpartum smoking can be seen as a means to deal with the stress that comes with having to take care of a child.

-There are also studies which show smoking as a way of enhancing positive sensations and emotional responses, such as relief, relaxation, and pleasure[3]. This sort of behavioral loop is usually followed by those women who already had developed the habit of smoking before pregnancy.

-Certain studies have uncovered that women also tend to smoke in order to control and regulate body weight, which is a specifically troubling concern for mothers who want to lose their post-baby belly fat[4].

-Postpartum depression is another extremely crucial trigger for women to embody addictive behaviors, especially in the form of smoking[5].

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Postpartum Smoking: How It Affects Kids?

Children who are brought up in homes where parents tend to smoke usually exhibit increased vulnerability to respiratory illnesses. These children have also been observed to be at a higher risk of ailments such as a decrease in the overall rate of lung growth and development, along with issues such as middle ear infection[6].

Studies have also shown that when infants are exposed to second-hand smoke during the phase of postpartum care, they tend to suffer from neurodevelopmental issues[7]. There have been studies which showed that children who were born to mothers who used to smoke were more prone to developing addictive tendencies towards tobacco themselves. It indicates that postpartum care is an especially delicate time for the development of children and any negative external stimuli can have a long-lasting impact.

Smoking has been shown to cause changes in the taste of breast milk, while also causing issues related to sleep cycles of infants. A study showed that when children were breastfed by mothers who smoked, they spent a significantly lower amount of time sleeping and were usually restless[8].

Postpartum depression and its association with smoking have been studied to a large extent. One study concluded that smoking has a direct role in increasing the overall tendency amongst women to experience postpartum depression. At the same time, those who experience postpartum depression are more prone to opt for smoking in order to deal with the negativity associated with the condition[9].

Another major issue regarding smoking and postpartum care is the threat that third-hand smoke poses to infants. Third-hand smoke is essentially defined by the residue that tobacco smoke leaves on surfaces such as clothes, curtains, toys, pillows, bedsheets, etc. One study[10] found that third-hand smoke might be the biggest single factor that contributes to the condition known as SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).

Postpartum Smoking: How To Kick The Butt?

Postpartum smoking cessation is often much more difficult as compared to its counterpart, which is a postpartum smoking relapse, an extremely common phenomenon amongst pregnant women. The core objective in the case of postpartum smokers is to ensure that the habitual behavioral loop of smoking dependence is broken. Some of the various ways in which this can be done include the following:

1. One of the fundamental ways in which postpartum smoking cessation and more specifically, postpartum smoking relapse can be dissuaded is to make the mother aware about the various negative impacts that her habit can have on the family. This form of awareness also includes the development of positive incentives in the form of the various ways in which the cessation of smoking can enhance the life of her infant as well as herself[3].

2. Counseling sessions are another powerful means by which pregnant mothers can be persuaded to work towards putting an end to their addiction. A standard counseling session, in this case, could last anywhere from 5 minutes to 15 minutes and involves an in-depth discussion with a trained professional. These counseling sessions can also be accompanied by self-help reading and viewing material that allows the mother to sustain her efforts towards cessation.

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3. Conducting counseling sessions for the partners of postpartum mothers who have smoking dependence behavioral patterns is another crucial means of intervention. Studies have found that having a partner who smokes is often the most powerful facilitator for postpartum as well as pregnant smoking patterns to emerge. Hence, focusing on educating the partner and in turn addressing the problem through the male counterpart of the family unit can also help in achieving the desired results.

4. Using nicotine-replacement and pharmacotherapy as a means to help mothers get rid of their postpartum smoking habit is yet another effective means of intervention.

5. Other than focusing on external help in order to stop the vicious feedback-loop of postpartum smoking and dependence, it is also necessary to focus on intrinsic ways in which cravings can be curbed. Start an exercise routine to keep the body fit while also distracting it from the craving for tobacco, join communities that are formed to help people deal with such habitual loops, or avoid places, people or situations that trigger the craving within you.

Smoking is a bad and harmful habit, and smoking while taking care of a baby only worsens the situation and increases problems. Comment below and let us know your views on postpartum smoking.

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Lalit Kanodia, General Physician)

Recommended Reads:

Top 20 Smoking Myths Busted: No More Excuses To Quit Smoking!

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1. Pederson, L. L &Stavraky, K. M; Relationship of smoking to lifestyle factors in women. Women’s Health, 1987, 12(2), 47-65.

2. Graham, H. Women’s smoking and family health. Soc. Sci. Med 1987, 25(1), 47-56.

3. WHO Report – Gender, Women, and the Tobacco Epidemic: 9. Pregnancy and Postpartum Smoking Cessation. [cited 5 August 2018].

4. Pomerleau, C. S; Pomerleau, O. F; Weinstein Garcia, A. Biobehavioural research on nicotine use in women. Br. J. Addict, 1991, 86: 527-531.

5. Frerichs, R. R., Aneshensel, C. S., Clark, V. A. Smoking and depression: a community survey. Am. J. Public Health 1981, 71(6), 637-640.

6. Tager, I. B; Ngo, L; Hanrahan, J. P. Maternal smoking during pregnancy. Effects on lung function during the first 18 months of life. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 1995, 152: 977-983.

7. Shea, A; Steiner, M. Cigarette smoking during pregnancy. Nicotine & Tobacco Research, 2008, 10: 267-278.

8. Mennella, J. A; Yourshaw, L. M; Morgan, L. K. Breastfeeding and Smoking: Short-Term Effects on Infant Feeding and Sleep. Pediatrics. 2007, 120(3), 497-502.

9. Swanson, E; Scott, E; Meredith, T. Smoking and its effects on postpartum depression. Journal of Student Solutions to Pharmacy Challenges. 2017, 1(1), 1-5.

10. Rosen, L. J; Noach, M. B; Winickoff, J. P, et. al. Parental Smoking Cessation to Protect Young Children: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. 2012, 129(1).

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