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Helping Pregnant Women Quit Smoking

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

A new program from the Kentucky Department for Public Health (DPH) and the University of Kentucky (UK) to reduce the number of pregnant women who smoke produced positive results during its first year, DPH reported today.

The Giving Infants and Families Tobacco-Free Starts (GIFTS) program enrolled over 500 women in its nine-county pilot area in eastern Kentucky, helping many give up smoking during their pregnancies. In addition, many more women have set target dates to quit smoking.

“We are very encouraged by the early successes of GIFTS and hope this will lead to a widespread reduction of the number of Kentucky women who smoke while they are pregnant,” said Ruth Shepherd, M.D., director of the division of maternal and child health in DPH. “Smoking while pregnant is detrimental to the health of both mother and baby and is the single most preventable cause of complications during pregnancy. We are committed to reducing Kentucky’s high number of women who smoke while they are pregnant.”

DPH data shows that 26.7 percent of Kentucky’s pregnant women smoke compared to 12.4 percent nationally.

From Feb. 11, 2008, to Feb. 28, 2009, GIFTS identified 1,035 pregnant smokers in its pilot area of Lee, Leslie, Letcher, Owsley, Perry, Wolfe, Knott, Knox and Whitley counties where smoking rates range from 35.7 to 53.4 percent. Since that time, 540 people enrolled in the program (23.1 percent) have quit smoking. In addition, another 50.7 percent of enrollees set a date to quit smoking as a result of the program.

“Quitting smoking is a challenging goal that often requires repeated attempts before success is achieved,” said Irene Centers, coordinator for DPH’s tobacco prevention and cessation program. “This makes the success of the GIFTS program even more remarkable. We’re learning that if given the resources, support and information they need, women will make the right choices for themselves and their babies.”

“GIFTS is a unique program that not only offers women individualized support for smoking cessation during and after pregnancy, but also addresses many of the barriers that keep women from quitting,” said Kristin Ashford, ARNP, an assistant professor at the UK College of Nursing and GIFTS program administrative coordinator.“What GIFTS supports do beyond other state programs is screen for depression, social support, domestic violence and secondhand smoke exposure. These are four of the primary barriers that can keep pregnant women from trying to quit or stay quit.”

Program participants receive a variety of resources and supportive materials including:

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− Quit Line referrals to the Kentucky Tobacco Quit Line, 1 800 QUIT NOW, a free, telephone-based counseling service.

− “Need Help Putting Out That Cigarette” booklet.

− carbon monoxide monitoring.

− depression, social support and domestic violence screening and referrals.

− referrals for smoking cessation for household members.

− ongoing support by counseling and educational materials.

− various incentives such as water bottles filled with items such as hard candy and gum; baby bibs featuring the GIFTS logo; and $10 baby delivery gifts like photo albums or diapers.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that women who smoke during pregnancy increase the risk that their infants will suffer from low birth weight, intrauterine growth retardation, prematurity, various respiratory diseases and infant mortality. According to “The Health Consequences of Smoking; a report of the Surgeon General,” smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for and exacerbates several pregnancy complications such as premature rupture of the membranes, infections, placenta previa and placental abruption, all of which are associated with preterm birth.

The Surgeon General’s report also found a causal relationship between maternal smoking and ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage and fetal growth retardation.