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Pregnancy, Relationships, and Smoking

When a smoker finds out she is pregnant

Researchers have reported that for many women, finding out they are pregnant changes the way others treat them and their smoking. To learn more, you can download a summary of this research in a booklet called: Couples and Smoking: What you need to know when you are pregnant. Some of this information is summarized below.

  • Most women feel pressure to stop smoking when they become pregnant
  • Pressure can come from partners, family, friends, the news, and even complete strangers
  • Pregnant women can struggle with quitting just like any other smoker
  • Pregnant women who are having trouble quitting often feel guilty and ashamed

If you are pregnant and having trouble quitting, remember there are many ways to get help. is a great place to start.

Finding ways to become an ex-smoker and stay an ex-smoker is a challenge that all smokers face. And it is a challenge that more and more women are winning for themselves and their families.

Pregnancy, relationships, and smoking

In the section about relationships and smoking, there is information about how you and your partner have a pattern in the way you deal with smoking as a couple. Research shows these interaction patterns can affect your smoking and quitting.

Pregnancy and having a baby is a time when you and your partner will have many changes in your life. Your habits and routines will change, and this can include how you relate to each other about smoking. This can change your relationship with each other. It may be a good change for you and your partner, or it may be one that is hard to make.

Smoking has a big effect on your health and your baby’s health. So does how you feel about yourself, the stress in your life, and your comfort with your life and relationships. How your partner affects these things also impacts your health.

Although it is your decision to continue to smoke or quit, how your partner acts also affects you and your smoking. If tension is rising in your relationship, it can be harder for you to make a decision you feel good about. It is helpful to talk to someone about it, like a friend, your doctor, or a counselor.

Couples' patterns of interacting and smoking while pregnant

When a pregnant woman decides to stop smoking, whether she really wants to or not, changes can happen in how a couple deals with smoking. The types of changes may depend on the couple’s behaviors before the woman got pregnant (see the relationships quiz).   Here are some of the types of changes that can happen.

Couples with an Accommodating pattern

  • The partner wants the woman to quit, but accepts and supports her personal goals and decisions
  • The couple talks openly about smoking and progress in quitting; the woman feels comfortable asking for support in reaching her goals
  • The partner shows understanding if the woman slips in quitting
  • The couple tries to quit smoking together

Couples with a Disengaged pattern

  • The woman gets reminded about risks of smoking by her partner, but her partner may not choose to try to quit—stress and tension can increase, especially if the partner continues to smoke
  • The woman feels like her partner is intruding on her rights and choices if asked to quit
  • The partner feels like the woman is intruding on their rights and choices if she does not quit
  • Stress and tension can increase in the relationship

Couples with a Conflictual pattern

  • A woman’s partner pays closer attention to her smoking and increases pressure on her about it. Conflict about smoking probably increases
  • The woman tends to avoid talking about any trouble she may be having in trying to quit
  • The woman tries to hide any problems or setbacks she is having; she rarely asks her partner for support in quitting even if she would like to have it
  • If the woman does quit, stress in the relationship may go down because smoking is no longer an issue

Shouldn’t it be easy for me to quit now that I am pregnant?

No. Quitting smoking is hard for most women, even if they feel strongly that they should. Some women can quit without much trouble, but it is common to have difficulty. Women who were smoking when they got pregnant often have to make more than one attempt to quit for good.

Just because you are pregnant doesn’t change the withdrawal symptoms you will feel when you stop (see the section on withdrawal). These symptoms can make it hard to quit, but they will get better in a couple of weeks or less.

Research shows that women may have more challenges in quitting than men.

The exact reasons are not known. It may be because being with others and reducing stress are important parts of why many women smoke. So at the same time when women are dealing with nicotine withdrawal, they must also find ways to keep having fun and coping with stress without smoking.

All of these reasons add up to quitting being difficult even when you are pregnant. Quitting is still worth it—for your health and your baby’s health.

Handling pressure from your partner and others

  • Ask your partner to stop, and let your partner know that pressuring you is not helping you quit smoking
  • Tell your partner you are working on quitting and you do not want to talk about it
  • Give your partner ways to help you—be specific
  • Thank others for their concern, and tell them you are working on making healthy changes in your life
  • Take yourself out of the situation


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