Pregnancy is a crucial time when women must pay close attention to their health and lifestyle choices. After all, they’re now carrying a child that is dependent on their diet and overall health.
However, it’s quite difficult to quit smoking even while you’re pregnant, even if you have concerns about the potential harms of smoking to both yourself and the developing foetus.
But for determined mothers who want to quit, seeing a GP and using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is their best course of action. One tool pregnant women can use is nicotine patches to stop smoking and minimise the harms to their unborn child.
While they are a common smoking cessation aid, are nicotine patches safe to use during pregnancy? Let’s take a closer look at whether you can use nicotine patches to quit smoking while you’re pregnant.
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Understanding Nicotine Patches
What is a Nicotine Patch?
Nicotine patches are approved tools to help motivated smokers handle withdrawals and cravings. These purpose-made patches deliver a controlled dose of nicotine through the skin.
This type of nicotine administration eliminates the harmful effects of cigarette smoke – the primary source of many preventable diseases.
While they have proven effective in aiding smoking cessation for the general population, their safe use during pregnancy remains a topic of debate and research.
How to Use Nicotine Patches While Pregnant: Is it Safe?
You’re probably wondering, “Will nicotine patches have a huge impact on my child’s development?” or “Isn’t nicotine harmful to the baby?”
While nicotine is a relatively harmless substance, it also has temporary effects on your blood flow, which can have a long-term impact on a developing foetus.
Nicotine temporarily increases your heart rate by narrowing your blood vessels. The reduced blood flow can potentially affect the placenta, which supplies nutrients and oxygen to the fetus. Any changes to the blood flow to the placenta – even temporary – may lead to complications such as low birth weight and preterm birth.
But, aside from this possible danger, the effects of nicotine patches aren’t completely harmful or harmless, as some studies would suggest.
Nicotine Patches and Pregnancy: Assessing the Health Risks and the Benefits
So, are nicotine patches bad for your baby? Some studies on this have suggested various effects on the mothers and their unborn children.
What are the Side Effects of Nicotine Patches for Pregnant Women?
One study illustrates that there’s a minor correlation between using NRT prescriptions and infantile colic in a newborn child of six months. However, the same study also mentions that there’s no link between major infant health disorders and congenital anomalies and nicotine patches.
One A vs B study that involved hundreds of pregnant women who used nicotine patches and placebos yielded no significant difference in their offspring’s vitality and overall health.
Another study showed that nicotine patches also did not benefit pregnant mothers as part of their efforts to stop smoking while pregnant – the reason being that a pregnant mother’s metabolism is faster than a normal person’s during gestation.
With all these studies in tow, the use of nicotine patches as a smoking cessation aid while pregnant must be approached cautiously and with full consideration of the possible effects.
We strongly suggest pregnant mothers see a GP prior to using any form of NRT tools and have an expert assess their overall condition while using nicotine patches and their unborn children’s development throughout the process.
The Benefits of Using Nicotine Patches During Pregnancy
While it’s still unclear whether there are permanent side effects to both an unborn child and their mother while using nicotine patches, a GP can weigh the pros and cons of putting her through the therapy.
In other words, they can observe the effects of using NRT on the pregnant mother and recommend whether they should continue or cease altogether.
For example, a GP can see that an actively smoking pregnant woman can do much more harm to their child than if they were to use nicotine patches to curb their cravings. The GP might find that the primary advantage lies in the harm reduction aspect – smoking has been associated with various preventable problems in both the mother and child.
With this in mind, having small doses of nicotine to wean off an actively smoking pregnant woman will cause relatively less harm to the child.
However, if a pregnant woman is determined to stop smoking cold turkey, a GP may recommend they do not go through NRT at all. They may recommend alternative methods, such as meditation, journaling, talk therapy, having a support group, and various other non-nicotine-related solutions that will keep her and her child away from any danger of nicotine consumption while quitting.
Smoking and pregnancy are a dangerous combination with long-lasting side effects for mothers and their unborn children.
While nicotine patches have helped many motivated smokers quit for good, it must be a tool cautiously approached by mothers with the help of health experts who can assess whether it’s the best course of action while keeping the possible health effects in mind.
If you’re a pregnant mother determined to stop smoking with or without nicotine patches, we can definitely help you.
Smokefree Clinic gives you access to many medically reviewed and trustworthy resources that can inform and aid you in your path to wellness, so have a look around!
If you’re ready to get started, Smokefree can connect you to Australian healthcare professionals who excel in helping patients quit smoking for good.