Weight worries affect women's motivation to stay smoke-free after pregnancy

PITTSBURGH, Sept. 15 Although many women quit smoking during pregnancy, the majority will resume smoking after having a baby. Results of a University of Pittsburgh study suggest that women's worries about weight may decrease their motivation to remain smoke-free postpartum. The study is published in the October issue of the Annals of Behavioral Medicine.

"Two-thirds of women who quit smoking when pregnant will resume smoking after giving birth," said Michele Levine, Ph.D., assistant professor of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. "We want to understand how factors, such as depression or the baby blues, and weight concerns, might affect women's motivations to smoke after delivery.

"Weight concerns are a prevalent problem among American women, and can affect women who have recently given birth." Dr. Levine continues. "In women who quit smoking when they become pregnant, we found that concerns about weight can make them less motivated to stay smoke-free after pregnancy."

The researchers interviewed 119 women who had smoked at least eight cigarettes per day for at least one month prior to quitting, and who quit after learning they were pregnant. Most of the women, 89 percent, reported quitting on their own without the help of formal programs or materials. During their third trimester, the women completed a series of paper-and-pencil questions about their motivation and confidence for remaining abstinent and their confidence to control their weight without smoking after giving birth. Based on their responses, the women were then divided into two groups, those who were highly motivated not to smoke after giving birth, and those who were less motivated.

A majority, 65 percent, were highly motivated to remain smoke-free, and 74 percent of those women felt confident that they would be able to do so. The researchers found that the more confident a woman was she could maintain her weight without smoking, the more motivated she was to remain a nonsmoker postpartum. Those who were less confident in their ability to control their weight were less motivated to remain smoke-free.

"Our results indicate that weight issues play a role in a woman's motivation to remain smoke-free after pregnancy. The next step is to see if weight concerns play a role in women's actual behavior, beyond motivation, and to understand the best way to target this vulnerability with treatment," said Dr. Levine. "The risks of smoking to both mother and child are well known; hopefully, we will learn about ways to help women reduce the dangers that cigarette exposure can pose to themselves and their children.

Prenatal and postnatal exposure to smoke has been linked to sudden infant death syndrome, ear infections, respiratory illness and asthma. Risks to adults include cancer and respiratory and reproductive complications.

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The study was funded by the National Institute of Drug Abuse, one of the National Institutes of Health.

Co-authors include Marsha D. Marcus, Ph.D., and Melissa Kalarchian, Ph.D., department of psychiatry, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic; and Lisa Weissfeld, Ph.D., and Li Qin, Ph.D., department of biostatistics, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.


Last reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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