Struggling to quit smoking while pregnant: A true story

Smoking during pregnancy is bad for developing babies. There’s been multiple studies proving that fact. That’s why Melissa didn't think twice about quitting until she got pregnant. She tells The Mix her story of struggling to quit smoking while pregnant and how she managed to finally do it.

True Stories

A young woman is sitting down. She is struggling to quit smoking while pregnant.

The harmful chemicals in cigarettes, such as carbon monoxide, have been linked to numerous health issues in developing babies including low birth weight and sudden infant death syndrome. This is why it’s recommended that expectant mothers quit smoking. Problem is, as we’re well aware of, smoking is highly addictive. This means that giving it up is no easy task. Especially if you’ve been smoking for most of your life.

How I started smoking

I started smoking at school when I was 14. Everyone seemed to be doing it. And eventually got hooked. I think I must’ve smoked about 10 a day from then on until I was 19. It was a big part of my life; I genuinely felt couldn’t survive without a fag.

I’d never really tried to stop before. It just wasn’t at the front of my mind. Of course I knew that it was bad for me and could find information about how bad if I wanted to, but I didn’t care all that much. Smoking kept me happy. 

Then I became pregnant and it completely changed my perspective. The smoking wasn’t just affecting me, but my child as well. I didn’t want the baby to be around secondhand smoke. Plus, I found out about the numerous health problems that pregnant women smoking during pregnancy can cause. I wanted to do whatever I could to reduce the risk of harming my baby’s health including causing any breathing problems for them.

Trying to quit smoking whilst pregnant

At first, I was really struggling to quit smoking while pregnant. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. I managed a smoking cessation for a few days at first, but then my brother stressed me out and I thought ‘Sod it, I’ll have a fag.’ So I started again. But a couple of weeks later, I stopped for good.

My midwife told me your cravings stop after the first four days. That is physically. Mentally they don’t stop for a while. So if you just take it day by day, you can do it.

Dealing with the stress

The worst thing was the stress. I was very temperamental with everyone. Sometimes I chose to stay in my room to avoid people cause I knew I’d just bite their head off. Not to mention, if I did go out and saw someone smoking it made it all the worse.

Mealtimes were particularly hard as my mum and I always used to have a cigarette afterwards. It’s those small moments that get you. I’d sit there looking at a cigarette and think “No, I’m not going to do it.” I was determined not to give in.

An interesting thing to note is that I ate a lot more while I was quitting. One great thing is you can taste the difference in food. McDonald’s was different. I don’t know what it was, but the chips were a lot tastier. Although, I can’t say for sure if that was because of the quitting or my pregnancy hormones. 

Quitting smoking by myself

I was living with my mum at the time and she tried to quit too for solidarity. Unfortunately, it led to both of us in the house getting stressed with each other. Suffice to say, it was not a good time in our household. Mum took tablets to help her, whereas I ended up doing it naturally. I tried all sorts of things but they all irritated me.

I hated the stickers on my arm, the gum tastes horrible and I didn’t really fancy the inhaler. And all the stop smoking services just seemed like a bit of a joke to me. So, instead, I kept myself busy and kept my mind off it. Remember – if you’re bored, you’ll smoke. Luckily, I was at college studying for my Diploma which kept my brain occupied.

Eventually it worked. The cravings stopped after about two weeks. I wasn’t tempted to smoke again after all that. When I went near someone who smokes it smelt horrific, like an ashtray – that just put me off.

Starting smoking again

I didn’t smoke for about a year and a half. It really helped that in the months after I had my baby my friends would pop up to see her so I didn’t leave the house much. Thing is, when I went back to going out with my mates again it was really difficult to abstain. Honestly, alcohol is a big factor – being drunk and around smokers made me try it again. 

At first it was just a little puff, but then it turned into a quarter of a fag, then half a fag and then a full packet. It was tricky because I didn’t want my boyfriend, who didn’t smoke, to find out. So I hid it for a couple of months with deodorant and chewing gum and all that.

Smoke free house

I get through about 10 or 15 a day now. Having said that, I only ever smoke outside. I still feel strongly about not smoking around my baby; she’s never seen a fag in her life. She doesn’t even know I do it. I’ve moved out from my mum’s and I’ve got a sticker on my front door saying ‘smoke free house’, because it is. I might be a smoker living here, but I smoke outside. Essentially, the house is a smoke-free zone.

I’d consider quitting again, just not at the moment. For me, smoking is a stress-reliever. One which I really need right now – especially considering that the boyfriend is now an ex.

I won’t lie, being a smoker feels different to being a non-smoker. You can breathe more and your food tastes better. My advice to people wanting to quit would be to think positively. If someone’s given up and they’re tempted to smoke again, I always say ‘go and stand next to someone who has a fag when they get off the bus.’ They stink. Just remember that smell, and you’ll be revolted by it.

Regardless of what’s happened, I’m still really proud I gave up for my baby. It’s made a difference to her health. It actually wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be. But it wasn’t just the baby – what really helped was that I was challenging myself to do it. And I never back down from a challenge.

A message from The Mix: If you’re struggling to quit smoking, while pregnant or otherwise, read our article here.

Next Steps

By Louise Ridley

Updated on 29-Jun-2022