Are you pregnant and using tobacco products? As 2019 ends, many of us are making New Year’s resolutions to improve our health. One of the best resolutions you can make for you and your baby is to quit smoking.

In Vermont, 15% of women smoked during their pregnancy in 2018, twice the national rate (7%). More women smoke during pregnancy in Rutland County (21%) compared to Vermont. Smoking during pregnancy may lead to complications, including miscarriage and premature birth. Women who smoke during the first trimester of pregnancy are twice as likely to deliver a low birth-weight baby. Later, these children may be more likely to have learning disorders and behavioral problems.

Quitting smoking is hard. Research at the University of Vermont’s Center on Behavior and Health has found that providing pregnant women with financial incentives (e.g., vouchers, gift cards) for quitting smoking is effective at helping them remain tobacco-free during pregnancy. Since cigarette smoking costs Vermont $348 million in annual medical costs, using financial incentives to help pregnant women quit smoking makes sense.

How did these incentives work? Pregnant women in Chittenden and nearby counties received a voucher worth $6.25 once they quit smoking (verified with a urine or saliva sample). Vouchers increased in value for each consecutive negative sample to a maximum of $45, which continued through 12 weeks after birth. A participant could earn up to $1,115.

Across four studies, women who received incentives were more successful at quitting smoking. Among those who received incentives, 34% had quit smoking by the end of their pregnancies, compared to only 7% of women in control groups.

Women who quit smoking delivered higher-birth-weight babies, as well as longer gestational age at delivery (by almost a week) which helps mom and baby. Other benefits included breastfeeding longer and fewer postpartum depressive symptoms.

Due to the success of UVM’s research, Rutland Women’s Healthcare and WIC, with the Vermont Department of Health, are collaborating to offer a similar study to help pregnant women who are currently smoking or vaping and ready to quit.

To enroll, women must be at least 18 years old and less than 25 weeks pregnant.

Upon enrolling, women receive a $15 gift card and help with setting a quit date.

The program involves brief weekly check-ins with a health-care professional during pregnancy and for three months after delivery.

In addition to personalized support, women can earn gift cards and baby supplies once they quit smoking.

Contact a nurse at Rutland Women’s Healthcare 802-747-3677 or WIC 802-786-5104 for more information and to enroll.

If you don’t live in the Burlington or Rutland area, 802Quits offers a phone-based program to support women who are pregnant and help them tailor their quit journey to meet their needs. Expecting moms who want to quit tobacco, including e-cigarettes, will have their own dedicated coach, up to 10 coaching sessions, and gift cards sent to them upon completing each one (up to $65). Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding also can use quit medications with approval from their doctor.

Quitting is hard. You can do it. There’s a lot at stake for you and your baby’s health. There is more help than ever. Give us a call and we can get you started!

This week’s Health Talk was written by Bethany Yon, chronic disease prevention specialist at the Vermont Department of Health, 802-786-5115. Bethany.yon@vermont.gov and Allison Kurti, assistant professor at the University of Vermont’s Center on Behavior and Health, Allison.kurti@uvm.edu.

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