This is a response to another post on Momaroo about smoking mothers, available here
The post itself and a lot of the comments showed the same type of ignorance that I want to bring to light. Yes, we all know that smoking is bad for our health. And that is a conversation for another day. But when people see a pregnant woman smoking, they jump straight to 'you don't care about your baby' and start talking about how horrible she is.
I know, not all mothers fit into this category, but there's something a lot of people don't seem to understand.
A woman who was a heavy smoker before getting pregnant is better off cutting back and quitting. I'll agree that some women do continue smoking regularly because they don't care to quit. Nobody can deny that. But not all of them do.
Not all pregnancies are planned, we can all agree on that. If a woman's trying to conceive, it would be logical that she quit smoking first. But if it was unplanned, she didn't have that time to prepare. And doctors often tell pregnant women who are heavy smokers that they should not quit smoking. The reason?
Anyone who's quitting smoking will go through withdrawal, which takes a physical tole on your body. A heavy smoker trying to go cold turkey is going to get hit by withdrawal, and they're going to get hit hard. On a regular person, this is manageable. For a pregnant woman, this is not a good idea.
Most doctors recommend that a woman who smokes heavily should just cut back on her cigarette intake. Cutting back saves the baby from as much of the harmful contents of cigarettes as possible without making the mother quit entirely. The biggest reason for that is because putting the baby through withdrawal during those nine months has been found to be more harmful than simply cutting back as much as possible.
It's not fair to automatically assume that any pregnant woman you see smoking is just ignoring the well-being of her child. Sometimes, they're doing what every one of us did during pregnancy - the best they can. I'm not a smoker because I never really liked the taste of cigarettes. My sister in law was a heavy smoker, and no blood tests or pregnancy tests gave a positive result until she was nearly three months along. She cut back from a little over half a pack a day to about 5 cigarettes a day. My nephew is a beautiful and healthy baby boy with no breathing problems or birth defects.
I saw the kind of grief people gave her over smoking while pregnant, and it broke my heart. She did the very best she could do to stay healthy during her pregnancy. The first thing she wanted to do was quit smoking when she found out she was pregnant, and the doctors told her she couldn't - because the withdrawal would hurt the baby too much. On some level, she was glad she didn't have to quit smoking, but she spent the entire time worrying about what continuing to do so would do to her baby. Knowing that quitting is more harmful in a situation like that is hard on the mother, and the kind of attitudes and comments people give them make it that much worse.
Don't assume that every pregnant woman who smokes is doing it because she doesn't care.