Hamilton-based pregnant mum Dayna Allen, 25, inhaled her first puff of smoke ten years ago as a curious 15-year-old, barely old enough to drive a car.
As the addiction set in, Dayna worked her way through an average of 36,500 cigarettes over the next decade, about 10 per day. She ceased to slow down even when she found out she was expecting baby number one in 2012.
Following alarming smoking-related health complications with her first pregnancy, Dayna knew it was time to kick the habit when she became pregnant with number two in March 2017, for the sake of her unborn baby.
“My first, my daughter, was born with a small tummy because my placenta wasn’t working properly. She also had to go on breathing support, which was scary. I was shown the placenta after she was born. It was very small and had black dots all over it. I felt terrible,” she said.
“I knew if I got pregnant again I’d have a serious decision to make about continuing to smoke, even though it felt impossible. When I found out I was having a baby the second time, that was it. I started the Once and For All stop smoking programme seven weeks into my pregnancy, officially quit four weeks later, and I’ve never looked back.”
Dayna is one of just 21 pregnant women in Waikato and Tairawhiti areas to quit via Once and For All since the programme, facilitated by Pinnacle Midlands Health Network, started in October 2016. Puamiria Maaka, Pinnacle MHN operations lead said more pregnant women need to follow suit.
“A recent Ministry of Health report shows that a sizable number of Waikato mothers smoke, despite the national average falling. The report found that about 17.1 per cent of Waikato mothers to newborns were identified as smokers. That’s huge and it needs to decrease,” she said.
The data in the ministry report, which was released this month, was collected in 2015. The report also identified Māori women living in high deprivation areas and under the age of 20 as having the highest rates of smoking.
Puamiria hopes to see the number of pregnant smokers reduce in the next report, given that Once and for All has started and more people are hearing about it as time goes on.
“We encourage pregnant smokers and non-pregnant smokers alike, in the Waikato and Tairawhiti regions, to sign up to the programme for free online at www.onceandforall.co.nz or by phoning 0800 6623 4522.
“Those who sign up are offered intensive behavioural support with a dedicated quit coach. These quit coaches already have a background in the health industry – many of them are doctors and nurses so they know what they’re talking about when they say that quitting smoking has positive effects from day one.
“They also have empathy and connect with smokers on a personal level. Many of them know what it’s like to quit – so they’re coming from a place of experience but also respect for the smoker and the journey they’re on.”
Puamiria said that no matter what stage of pregnancy a woman is at, quitting is worth it. “The earlier the better, as you’re likely to do less harm to your baby.”
Dayna said her quit coach visited her in her home, and at the times that best suited her and her family, “Glen would come over to my house at 7.30pm at night because that’s when it worked best for us. I knew he was committed to me, and his flexibility mean I also felt an obligation to him. That helped me quit.”
“Every week for four weeks I’d meet Glen and have a carbon monoxide reading via a breathalyser. It has red, orange, and green indicators, and at the end of four weeks you need to be ‘in the green’. It’s encouraging seeing the carbon monoxide levels on the breathalyser go down each week.
“Within days of quitting I felt different. I no longer go to bed feeling congested, I have a better sense of taste and smell, and I don’t get short of breath. You don’t realise the impact of smoking until you stop.”
Dayna said it’s become important to her to urge her pregnant friends to quit smoking.
“It’s not about getting on my high horse and saying ‘I quit so you should too’. It’s about telling them what happened in my first pregnancy and how it’s worth it to quit. And it is, even though it’s hard.”
“I’m not tempted to pick up a cigarette anymore. I trust that my baby will be born without complications and with a better sized placenta because I’m no longer smoking. Other women can have that too.