Drop it for Diapers

Pregnant Moms Given Incentive to Quit Smoking

September 27, 2011 (published in the Minot Daily News)
Provided by : Bonnie Riely, Program Facilitator, Minot, ND

Shawna Eddy was almost five months pregnant when she walked into the First District Health Unit on May 10, 2010. Not long before, she had found some literature about BABY & ME — Tobacco Free Programâ„¢, a new program for pregnant women, in the break room where she worked. The program would help her to quit smoking, and if she did, she would receive vouchers for diapers, a much needed commodity for a new mother. The trouble was that Eddy was a pack-a-day smoker. She was beginning to cut back to six to seven cigarettes daily, but it wasn’t enough. Shawna Eddy is the first graduate of BABY & ME, a program that helps pregnant women stop smoking.

Bonnie Riely, the tobacco cessation coordinator for First District Health Unit, met with Eddy and conducted a test using a carbon monoxide detector that measured Eddy’s carbon monoxide levels, as well as the levels for her fetus. The reality hit Eddy. Her carbon monoxide level was at a 7, or 1.12 percent; for her fetus, that was nearly doubled, to 2.19 percent.

“She became a little emotional, because it’s one thing to damage yourself, but when you’re harming your baby…,” Riely said. According to Riely, smoking while pregnant could lead to risks of childhood obesity, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. By the second visit, Eddy’s carbon monoxide level was 2. She had used Quitline, a hotline that helps smokers and spit-tobacco users quit. Generally, if participants aren’t at a zero carbon monoxide level by the fourth visit, they are expelled from the program. Riely encourages women to come in as soon as possible, as to nip it – “it” being the addiction to smoking while pregnant – in the bud. “The longer I have them, the more education I can give them,” Riely said.

Even after getting the results following the fourth visit, participants are required to come in monthly for the remainder of their pregnancy. Even after Eddy gave birth to her son, Daiden, on Oct. 20, 2010, she was still required to come in as part of the program. After the baby is born, with each successful month of having a low carbon monoxide level this is tested with the pump, as well as saliva tests to discern from second-hand carbon monoxide inhalation a $25 voucher is given to the mother. This voucher can be used for the purchase of diapers at Walmart. With the voucher, Eddy said she purchases two boxes of her preferred brand. After the voucher, she pays $9 out-of-pocket. On Monday, Eddy was the first official graduate of the program. Daiden, now 11 months old, is a healthy, vibrant baby boy with piercing eyes who has never been sick a day of his short life, something that Eddy credits the program with.

According to Riely, the reason mothers in the program are required to come in after the fourth visit, as well as after the birth, is that while the expectant mothers want to quit on the behalf of their unborn children, they may have a relapse once they give birth. While Eddy quit smoking cold turkey – without the help of a cessation aid – Riely said that nicotine gum or lozenges to help ween mothers off smoking can be used. If these aids are approved by the mother’s doctor, vouchers for these aids are given to the mother from the First District Health Unit. A grant from the North Dakota Department of Health funds the Baby & Me program, plus the vouchers for cessation aids, said Renae Byre, a tobacco cessation counselor with First District.

So far, about 45 to 50 women have signed up for the program since it started up last year. Currently, there are about 25 enrolled, Riely said. Others come in and they drop out, “because it’s a strong addiction,” she added.

According to statistics from North Dakota Vital Records, 17 percent of pregnant women in North Dakota were smoking in 2009. Riely believes that number might have increased, not only due to the boost in population, but that pregnant women who smoke may lie and say they don’t to avoid the shame or stigma.