A new program in the U.K. may help influence more women to quit smoking during their pregnancies.
Professor David Tappin from Glasgow University and Professor Linda Bauld from Stirling University implemented a program involving 612 pregnant smokers.
The women were each placed into one of two groups to find out which smoking cessation incentive would produce greater results.
Half were randomly assigned to a test group that would give them £400 (or about $600 USD) in shopping vouchers if they used smoking cessation services and/or quit smoking while pregnant. The women could receive Love2shop vouchers at several different times during the study: £50 in vouchers for setting a quit date and £200 at the end for proving they quit, using breath analysis.
The other half of women were placed into a control group. They were offered smoking cessation programs that included a face-to-face appointment with an adviser, four follow-up support calls and free nicotine replacement therapy for 10 weeks.
The incentives proved far more effective for the women in the study. In the test group, 69 women (or 23%) quit smoking; in the control group, only 26 (or 9%) quit.
However, the number of women who quit entirely is still fairly low out of the 612 total participants.
Quitting smoking is just one reason why many women will seek out free pregnancy help from doctors and other community resources.
“Many women find themselves pregnant and in need of help. While we don’t advocate to incentivize women to stop smoking, we do celebrate the act of reaching out to help women in need,” says Chris May, Director of Operations, PregnantHelp by CareNet DuPage. “Helping women understand their options as well resources available to them during pregnancy acts to empower them to make the best choice for their overall health.”
One in four women in the U.K. will smoke while pregnant, according to The Daily Mail, and each year around 5,000 infants die in the womb or shortly after birth due to mothers smoking during their pregnancies.
In the U.S., approximately 10% of women report smoking during their last three months of pregnancy, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Only 55% of women who smoked three months before a pregnancy will quit while pregnant, but among those who do quit, 40% will relapse within six months of delivery.
Smoking while pregnant can increase the risk of pregnancy miscarriage, early delivery, birth defects and sudden infant death syndrome. This dangerous behavior can also cause complications that can limit the amount of food and oxygen the baby can receive.
Although critics accused the study of “bribing” women to quit smoking during pregnancy, many health officials in the U.K. would like to see the scheme widened to improve smoking cessation rates. Others, however, told The Daily Mail that women should quit smoking during pregnancy regardless of financial incentives.