Nicotine patches do not help pregnant women quit smoking, according to new research.
Researchers from the University of Nottingham and the School of Community Health Science who conducted a study on pregnant women who use nicotine patches, found that the patches do not work during pregnancy. They also discovered that counselling can help women quit smoking.
Smoking during pregnancy is a known cause of miscarriage, premature babies, low birth weight, congenital abnormalities and neonatal death, according to the researchers.
They conducted an experiment on 1,050 pregnant women between the ages of 16 and 50 from May 2007 to February 2010. All the women smoked ten or more cigarettes a day before they were pregnant and five or more cigarettes after they became pregnant.
During the experiment, researchers placed nicotine patches on 521 women and the other 529 women were given placebo (visually identical dummy) patches for eight weeks. During that time all the women received support counselling from midwives. Just after two weeks of counselling the women agreed to quit smoking. The women were given a four-week supply of skin patches, either placebo or nicotine, to start on the agreed quit date. Four weeks after the therapy, all the women were asked to take up an exhaled carbon monoxide test. All the women passed this test. This clearly shows that counselling can help women quit smoking
"We think our findings are hugely significant. Smoking in pregnancy is the leading preventable cause of morbidity, death and health problems among women and babies. We hope our results will inform future health care policy and guidelines in the field of smoking cessation during pregnancy. Clearly standard dose nicotine patches do not work in pregnancy as well as they do in the general smoking population. More research is needed; higher dose patches might be effective, but women would also need to be persuaded to use these for longer and research into other ways to help pregnant women give up is also needed," said Tim Coleman, professor at the University of Nottingham.