Why do Some Mothers Return to Smoking After Giving Birth?

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Mothers Return to SmokingAccording to new research published in the journal Addiction, many women quit smoking once they become pregnant, but a high percentage start smoking again soon after giving birth.

Approximately 45% of women stop smoking while pregnant due to a myriad of reasons, including health factors, concern for the fetus, physical aversion to cigarette smoke, social expectation and decreased withdrawal symptoms.

A team of researchers, led by Dr. Caitlin Notley, analyzed 16 studies to investigate why 75% of women who quit smoking during pregnancy return to smoking within the first six months after giving birth—and 80%–90% of women relapse within a year.

Researchers discovered that women returned to smoking due to factors related to motivation, psychological realities, individual identity and social influences. Stress was also one of the major contributors to relapse. Women who were grouped in lower socioeconomic groups showed a higher tendency to start smoking again as well.

In regards to motivation, researchers found that many women believed that smoking was not harmful once the baby was born, and others admitted to quitting only for the duration of the pregnancy. Psychological factors such as cravings, which had increased due to bodily changes from the pregnancy, also encouraged some women to take up the habit again.

Furthermore, after giving birth, some mothers felt they lost their identities because of their new roles as mothers—in a way, returning to smoking helped them remember who they were.

Source for Today’s Article:
Motley, C., et al., “Postpartum smoking relapse – a thematic synthesis of qualitative studies,” Addiction September 10, 2015, doi:10.1111/add.13062.
Brazier, Y., “Why do so many mothers return to smoking after giving birth?” Medical News Today web site, September 10, 2015; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/299201.php.