While smoking becomes a no-no for many women once they discover they’re expecting a bundle of joy, it’s apparently harder for new moms to avoid the picking up those cigarettes again once the pregnancy is over. According to findings published in the journal Addiction, 75% of women who kicked the habit of smoking during pregnancy relapsed within six months of childbirth, while 80% to 90% of new mothers take up smoking again within a year of giving birth.
Researchers from the University of East Anglia in the UK carried out 16 studies of over 1,031 women from Canada and the US. The researchers found that these new moms attributed their relapse to a number of reasons:
The adjustment to motherhood can no doubt be a stressful time for any woman, which is why it’s not surprising that many new moms credit stress as the main reason for their relapse. Sleep deprivation, loneliness, loss of identity, and the process of caring for a newborn all contribute to high stress levels for adjusting mothers.
Many new mothers who experienced a relapse into smoking after childbirth had been chronic smokers prior to their pregnancy. These women think of smoking as integral to their identity and as something that helped them reconnect to their old selves before becoming mothers.
In some cases, new mothers felt pressure from their peers or even their partners to return to smoking. Friends who expected new moms to take up smoking again after childbirth contributed to the pressure, outright or otherwise. Women with partners who smoke also found it difficult to resist relapse.
Cravings and other physiological factors
For many women, the craving for a cigarette or two was too hard to resist, especially once the physiological changes of pregnancy were over. Smoking simply became enjoyable again, after pregnancy made it intolerable.
“It was a part of the plan.”
Many women choose to quit smoking once they find out they’re expecting, planning to take up the habit once again after childbirth. This is related to the notion that smoking isn’t harmful anymore once the pregnancy is over and the baby is born.