Quitting Tougher for Some Pregnant Women

Pregnant women with mental disorders have more difficulty quitting smoking

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D

(RxWiki News) Knowing not to smoke during pregnancy and actually quitting are two different things. It can be very tough to give up smoking, especially if you have other conditions.

A recent study found that many pregnant women with mental disorders want to quit smoking. However, they are finding too many obstacles to quitting.

By the time their babies were born, 40 percent of the women with no mental health concerns had quit smoking. But only 20 percent – about one in five women – of those with mental health conditions had quit.

"Seek help to quit smoking."

The study, conducted in part by Louise Howard, a professor at King's College London, involved investigating referrals to programs to quit smoking and the hurdles women encountered.

Specifically, the researchers compared pregnant women with mental health conditions to women who did not have any mental disorders.

The study involved 237 pregnant women – out of a possible 400 who reported smoking at their first prenatal appointment – who accepted referrals for smoking cessation treatment. Of the original 400, 97 women had a diagnosis of a psychiatric disorder, ranging from depression to schizophrenia to an eating disorder.

The researchers found that a higher percentage of women with mental health conditions accepted referrals for services to help them quit smoking. While 56 percent of women without mental heath conditions accepted referrals, 69 percent of women with mental disorders accepted referrals.

The researchers found, however, that the women with mental health conditions appeared to have a harder time actually giving up the habit.

Therefore, the second part of the study involved in-depth interviews with 27 pregnant women to determine why they found it hard to quit (regardless of whether they had a mental health condition).

While many of the women reported similar difficulties, such as physically being addicted to the nicotine and negative social influences, the researchers found that women with mental health conditions appeared to have stronger addictions and often smoked for very specific but unhealthy reasons.

Some, for example, smoked to stay thin, and others smoked even when they were extremely sick.

"The additional psychological condition of the women with mental disorders is clearly a major factor contributing to them not stopping smoking," Dr. Howard said in a release about the study. "The women who we interviewed said that they and their doctors prioritised their mental health over their smoking problem as they were worried that if they tried to stop smoking their mental health could deteriorate."

The study was published November 21 in BJOG: An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. The research was funded by the Foundation for the Study of Infant Death.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 19, 2012
Last Updated:
November 23, 2012