A Problem Shared: Pregnant Smoking – Should I Say Something?

A Problem Shared Health | by | 13th Apr 2017

APS Pregnant Smoking Cover

At Rob’s bus stop is a woman who is usually smoking. No big deal? It is for Rob, as the woman is pregnant. Should he intervene and say something?

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There’s a pregnant woman who smokes at my bus stop in the morning. I don’t know her or anything but should I say something? I mean, don’t we all know about the dangers of smoking while pregnant? But it’s not against the law is it? Is it any of my business? The last thing I want to do is cause a scene.

Rob, Newport

Our FamilyPoint Response to Rob

Hi Rob, thanks for getting in touch with us about the pregnant woman you see smoking at the bus stop. It sounds like you’re really concerned about the potential dangers of smoking while pregnant. This is understandable given the evidence of the damage it can cause to both mum’s and the baby’s health.

"Simply telling someone to stop smoking is often unproductive" Pregnant Smoking Infographic ENG1

There is much work being done, mainly by people in healthcare professions, and via campaigns to encourage women who are planning to become, or are already pregnant, to stop smoking. This is due to the potential negative effects of smoking on the baby’s development. Many approaches have been used over the years, some more successful than others. However, evidence shows that simply advising or telling women to stop is often unproductive.

The increase in awareness and knowledge about the potential impact of smoking whilst pregnant has resulted in strong views about the rights and wrongs of doing it. This sometimes translates into pregnant women being questioned, criticised and condemned for smoking, by family, friends and sometimes even complete strangers.

Pressure, criticism and condemnation may only serve to alienate and increase stress

It’s worth noting, however, that evidence seems to indicate that pregnant women are more likely to respond positively to encouragement to cease smoking from healthcare professionals (usually midwives) and/or people known to them whom they find supportive. Pressure, criticism and condemnation may only serve to alienate and increase stress in pregnant women, which in turn may adversely affect the health and well-being of mother and baby.

It is understandable that you would like to offer encouragement to this particular woman to cease smoking, but you might want to consider how that might feel for her – many women describe feeling that they become ‘public property’ when they become pregnant.

Many women describe feeling that they become ‘public property’ when they become pregnant.

If you were to approach the woman, there’s a possibility that she would find it intrusive and intimidating. You could both end up feeling angry, uncomfortable and even distressed. It might reassure you to know that health professionals involved in the woman’s care are likely to work with her on smoking cessation. It’s also possible that the woman is already reducing/trying to quit smoking, and that advice or criticism offered by a stranger might jeopardise this.

It is admirable that you are concerned about the welfare of the unborn child but perhaps in this instance it might be more appropriate to leave it to the professionals to offer support.

If you would like further information on national or local support services, then you can contact us at FamilyPoint Cymru via phone 0300 222 57 57, text 07860 052 905, or IM/Chat. We are open Monday to Friday 9am-5pm.

I hope this advice has been helpful. Good luck.

The FamilyPoint Cymru Team

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Check out all our ‘A Problem Shared…’ posts for more family advice here.

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