3 Reasons Why Nicotine Patches May Not Help You Quit During Pregnancy

by Dr Antonio Howell, MD

in quit smoking

The 3 Week Diet

Most women understand that smoking during pregnancy could greatly harm their health and their baby’s health. Still, many of them continue to smoke despite the known risks. Further, those who attempt to quit while pregnant make use of unsafe smoking cessation methods, such as nicotine patch.

Nicotine replacement therapy, which comes in many forms like patches, gums and nasal sprays, has been shown to help smokers quit. This treatment works by replacing the source of nicotine so the person doesn’t resort to using cigarettes while undergoing smoking cessation. But effective as it is, it doesn’t seem to help pregnant women ditch the habit, according to new research.

The study, conducted by the University of Nottingham in England, through the Centre for Tobacco Control Studies, suggests that using nicotine replacement therapy when quitting during pregnancy may not be a good treatment strategy. The research involved 1,050 women who were 12 to 24 weeks. They were assigned into two groups – the first group received cognitive behavioral smoking cessation support and wore a nicotine patch, while the second received counseling and wore a patch which doesn’t contain nicotine (to serve as the placebo). The study was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The findings show that women who used nicotine patch had higher quit rates during the first month of the study. But at the time of delivery, both groups had similar quit rates.

3 Reasons Why Nicotine Patches May Not Help You Quit During Pregnancy

Only a short-term solution

According to the study authors, the nicotine patch improved short-term but not the long-term quit rates. Another reason for it was that women tend to discontinue using the patch to help themselves quit.


It’s not safe for the child’s health

Doctors do not recommend nicotine replacement therapy for pregnant women who are looking to quit smoking. Just like other forms of artificial treatments, nicotine patch poses risks specifically to the child. Nicotine that is contained in the patch is the same with the nicotine contained in tobacco. It is an addictive substance that can cause damage to the developing child.


It is associated with serious health risks


The use of nicotine patch during pregnancy is associated with low birth weight in babies. This could have a profound impact in the child’s growth and development. Babies who were underweight upon delivery are more at risk of health problems, such as low immunity, later in life. Nicotine replacement therapy during pregnancy was also associated with miscarriage, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and stillbirth. Furthermore, NRT was shown to increase the risk of colic. It is a condition which starts during the first weeks of the child, characterized by excessive crying.

There are safer methods that pregnant women can try to quit smoking, such as counseling and cognitive behavior therapy. It is recommended that they quit before planning to get pregnant to protect the child’s development and reduce the risk of complications.


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