Free help available for pregnant women who want to quit smoking

photo by: Kansas Health Matters,

Percent of births where mother smoked during pregnancy from 2015-2017, shown by county

A free program to help pregnant women stop smoking is now available through the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department.

SCRIPT, or Smoking Cessation and Reduction in Pregnancy Treatment, is designed to help pregnant women stop smoking in seven to 10 days, said Nicole Parker, public health nurse with LDCHD.

“Most of the program is actually a lot of self-motivation,” Parker said. “They are tracking how much are they smoking, what are their triggers for smoking, and ways to reduce their smoking over the seven-day period.”

SCRIPT is a national program that’s designed to be a component of a patient education program for prenatal care providers, according to a news release from LDCHD. Basically, it aims to teach participants about how quitting or reducing smoking can benefit their health and their babies’ health.

The department rolled the program out on Friday. It received a grant from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment that will allow it to offer SCRIPT to mothers who seek service through the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program. However, Sarah Hartsig, health promotion specialist with LDCHD, said it’s available to all interested expectant mothers.

Smoking can lead to low birthweight, impaired fetal growth, increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), pregnancy complications and decreased lung function in the baby, according to the release. So although the stress from trying to quit may couple with that related to the pregnancy, it’s worth it, Hartsig said.

“There is a misconception among the public and even some medical providers that quitting smoking is too stressful for women during pregnancy, and some people don’t recommend it,” she said, “but there has been a lot of evidence that shows that the benefits of quitting smoking outweigh the stressfulness of quitting itself.”

The SCRIPT program also aims to offer women alternative ways to manage stress, such as exercise or physical activity, Parker said.

“They do deep breathing techniques as well, and try to incorporate that as part of your daily life, versus picking up a cigarette and smoking,” Parker said. Additionally, participants will have access to a quitline and some texting apps for support.

Beyond the physical health benefits, quitting is good for the wallet. A pack of cigarettes in Kansas costs roughly $6, meaning smoking two packs per week costs $625 annually — that’s roughly enough to buy 2,700 diapers or an entire year’s supply for a new baby, according to the release.

And it’s never too late to quit, Parker said.

“Obviously trying to quit smoking early on in your pregnancy or when you’re not pregnant is one of the best things you can do for your health, but even quitting in your late last trimester of pregnancy or even after you deliver will still have benefits for both you and your baby,” Parker said.

Hartsig said the department has funding for the program through the end of June, but it has staff to continue it as long as the department has the materials it needs.

“Then even after the materials are gone, if we find that it is successful in helping our pregnant women quit smoking, then we’ll find some funds to fund additional materials to continue offering it,” Hartsig said.

photo by: Kansas Health Matters,

Percent of births where mother smoked during pregnancy — Douglas County, Kan., trend from 2005-2017. The county’s most recent available annual statistic was 8.7 percent in 2017.

According to KDHE’s 2017 Annual Summary of Vital Statistics, the mother smoked sometime during pregnancy in 8.7 percent of live births in Douglas County. That’s a bit below the statewide rate of 10.1 percent, and the county has been trending downward over the last decade or so.

“Even though we’re doing pretty well compared to the rest of the state, there’s always room for improvement in terms of smoking during pregnancy and protecting moms and babies,” Hartsig said.

Nationally, 7.2 percent of women who gave birth in 2016 smoked during pregnancy, according to a National Center for Health Statistics report to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. West Virginia had the highest prevalence at 25.1 percent; California’s was lowest at 1.6 percent.

Anyone interested in SCRIPT can get more information by calling the Lawrence-Douglas County Health Department WIC staff at 785-856-5350 or by talking to anyone in the LDCHD clinic at 200 Maine St.

Contact Mackenzie Clark

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