What's worse during pregnancy, smoking cigarettes or using the nicotine patch? On the face of it, you'd think the answer is obvious: Smoking. And if you're talking about just the mother's health, that would be a reasonable assumption. But the patch isn't quite the total solution for smoking moms that you think it would be. And as far as the baby's health is concerned, the nicotine patch may be just as bad as smoking cigarettes. First, here's some surprising news about pregnant women who use the patch to try quitting smoking.
In a recent study on pregnant smokers, half were given the nicotine patch and half were given a placebo. The women with the real patch were less likely to smoke during early pregnancy. But sadly, they were just as likely to resume smoking again once they gave birth. The patch did not help them quit for good. So that's disappointing.
Here's the other thing about the patch. All that smoke is terrible for the mother, of course. And there are loads of chemicals in cigarettes that scientists don't even understand -- especially in how they affect a developing baby.
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But that nicotine is definitely trouble for babies. Nicotine has been proven to disrupt the development of a baby's brain. With the patch, your baby is getting a steady stream of the stuff. Depending on how much you smoke, it could even be worse for your baby!
Here is the one glimmer of hope for pregnant smokers: When you take a break between doses of nicotine it does look like the baby's brain gets some much-needed time to recover from some of the damage. So chewing nicotine gum (not all day long) is a solution. But really, the best, most effective thing you can do is the hardest: Just quit, period. No patch, no lozenge, no gum, nothing. Just quit smoking. For both of you.
Do you know anyone who is pregnant and trying to quit smoking?
Image via Dustin Askins/Flickr