Text messaging program may help pregnant women kick the smoking habit

October 2, 2017, George Washington University
Credit: Vera Kratochvil/public domain

An intensive text messaging program provides some pregnant women help in fighting the urge to light up a smoke, according to a study out today.

"Our findings show that a text messaging program helped some groups of quit smoking during pregnancy," says lead author Lorien C. Abroms, ScD, MA, an associate professor of prevention and community health at Milken Institute School of Public Health (Milken Institute SPH) at the George Washington University. "The study's findings suggest a potential new quitting strategy, especially for those later in their pregnancies and older pregnant women."

The researchers recruited pregnant women who were already enrolled in an established text messaging program called Text4baby. Text4baby has been found to have a positive health impact on alcohol consumption during pregnancy—but not smoking. Abroms and her team wanted to find out if a more intensive mobile phone program called Quit4baby would be more effective. To find out, the team recruited nearly 500 pregnant women, who smoked an average of 7 cigarettes per day and wanted more help to quit.

Quit4baby is targeted to smoking cessation and sends more text messages—between 1 and 8 per day aimed at bolstering a 's resolve to quit. The messages help educate the women about the health risks associated with smoking and they are interactive—allowing a woman to back for more help if she is experiencing a craving or goes back to smoking.

After three months, 16 percent of the women who were enrolled in both Text4baby and Quit4baby had quit compared with just 11 percent of women getting just Text4baby. However, the difference between the two groups did not reach statistical significance, the authors say.

The more intensive intervention did seem to help two subgroups quit smoking at least in the short run, Abroms says. The combo of Text4baby and Quit4baby helped women age 26 and older and those in the second and third trimester of pregnancy quit through the delivery date and in some cases beyond. However, the researchers found that the resolve to quit seemed to disappear postpartum as many of these women started smoking again.

Very little help is provided to who want to quit so the study's findings are important, especially if the strategy can be adjusted to be more effective, Abroms says. Despite the , about 10 percent of women smoke throughout their pregnancy in the United States.

Additional studies must be done to find out if Quit4baby can be paired with other smoking cessation tools in order to provide long-term help for pregnant who want to kick their for good, she says.

The study, "A Randomized Trial of Text Messaging for Smoking Cessation in Pregnant Women," was published October 2 in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Explore further: Managing negative emotions can help pregnant smokers quit

More information: American Journal of Preventive Medicine, www.ajpmonline.org/article/S07 … (17)30437-3/fulltext

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