Ask DadPad, Health & Wellbeing

Ask DadPad: Why should I give up smoking now I’m going to be a dad?

Posted on 22nd October 2021

As a parent-to-be, there are lots of things you will want to sort as you prepare yourself and your surroundings to welcome your new arrival. Getting baby’s nursery ready, buying all the equipment that you and your partner will need in order to care for baby, and reading up on all the important ‘how to’ information are top of most pregnant couples ‘to do’ lists.

However, something you might not immediately have thought of – especially as a dad-to-be, rather than the pregnant mum – is getting your health in order.  Mum will have received lots of information from those providing her antenatal care on all aspects of her own health and wellbeing, including what she should and shouldn’t be eating and drinking, and also the fact that she should consider giving up any bad habits which could affect the health of your unborn baby.

But these considerations are equally applicable to you, as the dad, and giving up smoking is something that should be fairly high up your list – not least because you’re going to need more money now, and it’s reckoned that you could save at least £2,750 a year if you give up a 20-a-day habit. In fact, smoking can have such an impact on your body that it’s something you might want to start thinking about that before you even get pregnant!

Stop smoking to get pregnant

Did you know that smoking can reduce your fertility, meaning that it might make it more difficult for you and your partner to get pregnant?  According to the Tommy’s website, not only does breathing in second-hand smoke (also known as passive smoking) from you make it more difficult for your partner’s body to conceive, smoking will also have an affect on your own body’s fertility by:

  • reducing the quality of semen
  • causing the semen to have a lower sperm count
  • affecting the sperm’s normal swimming patterns, and
  • causing male sexual impotence (the ability to get or maintain an erection)

The good news is that giving up can reverse some of the damage that smoking is doing, and has done, to your body by improving the quality of your sperm along with your sperm count, and also reducing the risk of impotence over time.  Ideally, you should aim to quit at least four months before you intend to start trying for a baby, but stopping at any stage will definitely help matters.

Stop smoking to support your partner

Another really good reason to stop smoking once you start thinking about becoming a dad is to support your partner in her efforts to quit.  This is because all the evidence suggests that it’s a lot easier to give up smoking – and to keep going as a non-smoker – if your partner doesn’t smoke either.  Giving up together will enable you to support each other, and now you both have a brilliant reason to stay motivated – perhaps the best reason you’ll ever get?

Stop smoking to protect your unborn baby

Of course, the biggest reason to stop smoking once you realise that a baby is on its way is to protect the health and wellbeing of your baby whilst it’s growing and developing inside mum’s body.

If you live with your pregnant partner and smoke around her – and/or, when it is born, your baby – NHS websites tell us that your secondhand (passive) smoke can increase the risk of a number of negative outcomes for your baby, including:

  • being born prematurely and/or with a low birth-weight;
  • sudden infant death syndrome (also known as SIDS or ‘cot death’);
  • developing asthma, and experiencing more severe and frequent asthma attacks;
  • experiencing and/or being admitted to hospital in its first year of life with breathing/respiratory-related conditions, such as bronchitis or pneumonia, and also being more susceptible to viral infections;
  • ear infections, which may cause long-term hearing loss; and
  • meningitis.

Passive smoking can also, of course, impact on your partner’s health.

Still not convinced?

You might have read all the above and still think that giving up smoking isn’t for you, or something that you’re just not able to do.  We get it.  Julian at DadPad is an ex-smoker and totally appreciates how hard it is to quit.  For each of us, we’ll need to find our own unique motivation which shifts our thinking, and our willpower. And it doesn’t mean that you’re a bad dad if you aren’t able to give up smoking.

If you’re struggling with your emotions around smoking and becoming a new dad, having a read through of this Canadian booklet from a few years ago – ‘The Right Time… The Right Reasons…’ – might help you. It’s full of quotes from real-life dads who smoked, showing the thoughts they have had about becoming a dad and being a dad who smokes.  We’ve used some of their quotes to illustrate this blog post.

One page that you might especially want to look at – if you’re (a) trying to decide whether or not to quit and/or (b) struggling with your willpower to keep away from cigarettes – is their “Adding to my pile of reasons to quit smoking”. This might really help focus you on what’s important to you…

From: https://facet.ubc.ca/wp-content/uploads/Right-Times-Right-Reasons.pdf

But what support is available to help me quit?

If you and/or your partner have made the decision to quit, in order to get pregnant or to give your baby-to-be the best start in life, that’s fantastic news. There are loads of health professionals out there ready to support you in this and help increase your chances of success – in fact, it’s reckoned that if you have professional support, you are three times more likely to succeed.

A really good first step is to visit the NHS Quit Smoking webpage which contains lots of really great advice, including a helpful list of ten self-help tips.

The webpage also flags up the NHS Stop Smoking Service for England, which provides free expert advice, support and encouragement to help you quit for good.  You can find your nearest Stop Smoking Service by entering your postcode on the website.  They’ll be able to offer you an initial one-to-one appointment, and potentially also group sessions and drop-in services (depending on where you live). You can talk to them – or your GP – about the different stop smoking treatments that might be available to you, including nicotine replacement therapy (NRT).

If you live in one of the other home nations, there are specific stop smoking advice services and helpline set up for you, too: in Wales, there’s Help Me Quit; in Scotland, the service is provided by NHS Inform; and in Northern Ireland, you can be supported via a Quit Kit.

The NHS also have a national Smokefree Helpline – on 0300 123 1044 – which is open Monday-Friday, 9.00am-8.00pm, and at weekends from 11.00am-4.00pm. This is a great number to have on hand when you feel yourself at a moment of weakness, with one of the Helpline advisers explaining that their role is to “talk about why you want to smoke and how to deal with your cravings.”

Another great resource is the NHS Quit Smoking App which is available for free download (just like the DadPad!) and which allows you to track your progress as a non-smoker, see how much money you’re saving (a great incentive!) and receive daily support.

You might also want to look at other organisations – such as QUIT and The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – who also offer support to those trying to stop smoking.

Finally, you and/or your partner might want to let your Midwife, Health Visitor or GP know that you’re planning to give up, as they’ll also be able to offer you support and guidance.

The Good News!

The good news is that – once you’ve stopped smoking – your body will start to feel the benefits almost immediately. For example (all info here comes from the NHS Better Health Quit Smoking webpage):

  • All the carbon monoxide will have been flushed out of your body within 48 hours, and your senses of taste and smell will also be improving
  • You should be able to notice that your breathing has become easier within 72 hours, because your bronchial tubes will have started to relax – and you’ll have a little more energy now, too
  • After 2 to 12 weeks, your circulation will have improved, meaning that your blood is now pumping to your heart and muscles much better
  • If you can get to 28 days without smoking, you’re five times more likely to be able to quit for good
  • And, after 1 year as a non-smoker, your risk of heart attack will have halved compared with that of someone who is still smoking. Hang in there for 10 years, and you’ll also have reduced your risk of lung cancer by half, too!

 

References and further reading:

Stop smoking to get pregnant:

NHS webpage – How to improve your chances of becoming a dad

Tommy’s webpage – How smoking affects female and male fertility

Stop smoking to support your partner and protect your baby:

NHS webpage – Stop smoking in pregnancy

NHS Start4Life webpage – Smoking in pregnancy

NHS Start4Life webpage – Advice for partners

NCT webpage – Smoking during pregnancy

What 0-18 NHS webpage – Stop smoking – protect your child’s health

Stop smoking support services:

NHS webpage – NHS Stop Smoking Services help you quit

NHS Better Health webpage – Quit Smoking/Stoptober/App

QUIT charity – Website

Additional resources:

FACET (Families Controlling And Eliminating Tobacco) organisation from Canada, who have lots of dad-focused resources on their website, including their ‘The Right Time… The Right Reasons…‘ booklet.