Pregnancy could curb desire to smoke before it is suspected or recognized: First study to examine the impact of pregnancy on a persons smoking behavior

Pregnant smokers reduced their smoking by an average of one cigarette per day before becoming aware they were pregnant, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study of more than 400 pregnant people. Then, in the month after learning of their pregnancy, participants reduced smoking by another four cigarettes per day.

“Our findings suggest that pregnancy could curb smokers’ desire to smoke before they are even aware of having conceived,” said the study’s lead author and principal investigator, Dr. Suena Huang Massey, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and a Northwestern Medicine psychiatrist.

“While recognition of pregnancy is a common motivation to reduce or quit smoking, if biological processes in early pregnancy are also involved as suggested by this study, identifying precisely what these processes are can lead to the development of new smoking-cessation medications.”

The study was published Oct. 17 in Addiction Biology.

The overwhelming majority of research in this field focuses on the impact of a person’s smoking on the pregnancy and the baby. This study examines, instead, the impact of pregnancy on a person’s smoking behavior.

While reduction in smoking during pregnancy is well established, no prior study has determined precisely when reduction in pregnancy smoking begins — and, especially, whether it begins before individuals are aware of the pregnancy.

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