DURHAM, N.C. -- Many women stop smoking as soon as they find out they're pregnant. But shortly after giving birth, most of them will start lighting up again. That behavior is puzzling to health researchers who know that most other people who go nine months without a puff have become non-smokers.
As a consequence, a research study reported in the May issue of the American Journal of Public Health takes the first stab at trying to prevent pregnant women from resuming their smoking habits after their babies are born.
The researchers found that ongoing supportive counseling is needed to keep new moms off cigarettes because when the trial run of counseling ended, many of the women in the test program started smoking again.
"This is the first trial designed specifically to prevent smoking relapse in postpartum and to test different approaches to accomplish that," said one of the study leaders, Colleen McBride, associate professor at Duke University Medical Center. "It's important to try to help pregnant women stay off cigarettes in postpartum."
The trial included three groups of women who were patients at two managed care organizations in Seattle and Minneapolis. A booklet called Stop Now For Your Baby was given at the beginning of pregnancy to all three groups. A second group also got three telephone counseling calls before giving birth. The third group got telephone counseling before and after giving birth -- for a total of six calls -- along with parenting newsletters that included smoking information.
"Our primary question was whether intervention provided during pregnancy would be enough to prevent smoking relapse or if we had to extend into postpartum," explained McBride, interim director of Duke Comprehensive Cancer Center Cancer Control Program. "We got the best results by continuing intervention after the baby was born."