It is no longer a question of whether or not the unborn will be harmed by nicotine use during pregnancy, but of the degree, number, types, noticeability and lifetime impact of the harms actually inflicted. At a minimum, nicotine will cause the developing brain to grow millions of extra acetylcholine receptors in the cortex, striatum, and cerebellum regions ( 1995, 1999 ). At a minimum, it will unnaturally regulate the pre-birth flow of more than 200 neurochemicals within the unborn’s mind and body, including dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline.
But more important than scientific and Canadian government assertions that nicotine is more addictive than heroin or cocaine, or that your new-born’s first challenge in life will be enduring nicotine withdrawal and chemical detox alone, nicotine is not only a teratogen but very likely a neuroteratogen inflicting lasting damage upon their nervous system.
Pregnant women would be wise to reflect upon just how amazingly toxic nicotine is. Drop for drop it is more lethal than strychnine or diamondback rattlesnake venom, and three times deadlier than arsenic. Just 2-3 drops on the skin (40-60mg) will kill a 160 pound human. The average smoker puts 1 mg of nicotine into their bloodstream with each cigarette. If the entire 1 mg was put on the skin of a 1 pound rat, the rat would die.
The problem isn’t just smoked nicotine. On Januuary 8, 2006, Professor Theodore Slotkin, a leading nicotine research toxicologist at Duke University Medical Center, stated:
1. “There is abundant evidence that the major problem for fetal development is exposure to nicotine rather than other components of cigarette smoke.”
2. “NRT, especially by transdermal patch, delivers more nicotine to the fetus than smoking does.” According to Dr. Slotkin, a recent study found that the brains of fetal mice wound up with 2.5 times higher nicotine concentrations than found in the mother’s blood when a slow continuous nicotine feed, as would be the case with the nicotine patch.
3. “There are only two studies of the effectiveness of NRT in pregnancy, and both show that it doesn’t work. Counseling works better. Pregnant smokers who cannot quit spontaneously tend to smoke on top of the use of NRT, worsening the fetal effects.”
Although you have probably long dreamed of someday ending your brain’s chemical addiction upon nicotine, the sudden news of pregnancy and deep concern for the growing life inside can make it seem like you’re being forced to quit. It can leave the ” junkie mind” feeling deprived of someday quitting on its own terms. Instead of embracing the opportunity to live your own long held dream of quitting, far too many mothers-to-be quit only for the baby. Sadly, roughly half of all who quit during pregnancy relapse to smoking nicotine within hours, days or weeks of giving birth.
Instead of beginning a wonderful nicotine-free life together, these new babies have an actively feeding drug addict for a mother. Instead of being greeted by sweet smelling kisses, these babies bond their love with sensing the arrival of the nasty smells and odors of the over 4,000 chemicals that were just sucked into their mother’s mouth and deposited upon her face, hands and clothing. Forced to either breathe lingering clouds of toxins or watch their mother depart at least hourly to tend and care for her addiction, when it comes to fresh air or love these new babies live a constantly interrupted life.
Your selection of your primary quitting motivation, and keeping it adequately fueled, is critical to permanent nicotine dependency recovery. Quitting for your unborn child all but assures nicotine relapse once you convince yourself that the greatest dangers have passed. By quitting for you, and allowing your baby to inherit the fruits of your decision, you set the stage to permanently arrest your dependency. Keep in mind that after giving birth most new mothers experience a brief period of minor sadness that may last up three weeks. What are the odds of you getting through this brief period without experiencing relapse if you failed to develop your own personal core recovery motivations and have no dreams or desires of your own to muster and rely upon?
Canadian cigarette pack addiction warning labelIt is normal to feel like you are being asked to make a tremendous sacrifice by quitting. You are but for a reason vastly different than dependency denial permits you to think. While it is normal for you to have falsely convinced yourself that you smoke because you like smoking, love smoking, to calm you when stressed, or for flavor or taste, the truth is, these are not the reasons you smoke. You smoke because you are a true drug addict in every sense, because nicotine has de-sensitized your brain, and the rising tide of anxieties can tend to hurt when you don’t smoke.
The truth is that the real quitting took place on the day that nicotine took command of your mind and thinking. You’re not giving up anything of value. Even the neurochemicals that nicotine controlled, each already belonged to you! You are coming home to an amazing sense of calm during crisis, to a clean, fresh and healthy you that your new baby will inherit, love and enjoy.
Nicotine’s half-life inside both of you is about two hours. Within a maximum of 72 hours after last administering nicotine your blood serum and body will be 100% nicotine free and chemical withdrawal will have peaked in intensity and have started to gradually decline. But just one puff of nicotine and you will again face up to 72 hours of initial detox anxieties, a back to back energy draining feat which few have the endurance to complete. None of us are stronger than nicotine but then we don’t need to be as it’s only a chemical with an I.Q. of zero. Knowledge is power!
No crave episode triggered by encountering a conditioned nicotine feeding cue (times, places, activities and emotions during which you’ve created the subconscious expectation of smoking nicotine) will last longer than 3 minutes but be sure and look at a clock as time distortion during recovery is normal and minutes can seem like hours. The most craves encountered by the average quitter on the most challenging day of recovery is six (6) on day three. By day ten the average quitter is down to just 1.4 crave episodes per day.