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Pregnant Women Can Opt for Online Help to Quit Smoking

Update Date: Aug 11, 2012 09:27 AM EDT

Pregnant women who are struggling to kick the butt have a new ray of hope with a website that would support them, instead of inducing feelings of guilt or shame.

PREGNETS (Prevention of Gestational and Neonatal Exposure to Tobacco Smoke) of the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health in Toronto focuses on building a community of support among women through online discussion board, reports CTV news.

The site, along with offering various self-help materials also offers tips on having a healthy pregnancy. According to the press release, around one in 10 Canadian women smoke while pregnant and that too, is believed to be an understatement because many a women do not admit to smoking while pregnant. 

PREGNETS aims at helping women cut down on smoking if not completely overcome their addiction. However, "there is no safe amount of smoke exposure while pregnant," Dr. Peter Selby said. 

"It is dangerous to both the woman and the fetus. It's not just the fetus," he said Thursday. 

In smoking mothers to be, there is a risk of miscarriage and children develope behavioral problems, along with the risk of obesity in adolescence, studies suggest.

"The risk to the fetus is an immediate risk," said Selby, clinical director of CAMH's addictions program. "They're much more likely to be premature, likely what we call small for gestational age, and then they have a higher risk of things like sudden infant death syndrome and upper respiratory tract infections." 

Selby further said that an online quitting tool would help women overcome the stigma associated with smoking while pregnant.

"The problem is if you're addicted, a couple of things happen: you go underground, you become a closet smoker. You don't seek out help because you feel you'll get judged. And you're going through a pregnancy -- which should be a nice, happy time -- feeling guilty and trapped and worrying what the outcome might be."

Further, Selby said that it is the mother who is mostly targeted by the society in spite of the fact that even fathers or other family members too could be contributing to the harm by pregnant woman to second-hand smoke.

"The anonymity the Internet provides could potentially provide a place for women who may be very isolated but have access to the Internet to get information and share their ideas and thoughts and feelings and worries and fears, without the risk of being judged," Selby said.

"Now there's a space where if you're not comfortable telling your health-care provider or your family or whomever, it doesn't mean you're alone."

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