Strains of Motherhood are leading 90% of women who had quit to resume smoking, especially those from poorer backgrounds, says a new study.
Researches interviewed around 1,031 women who had given birth and they found that some mothers go back to cigarettes under pressure from friends or because they see it as a way of regaining their identity.
"We found that many women see smoking as a way of coping with stress. They also believe that physiological changes influence cigarette cravings, and that they no longer need to protect the baby from smoking's harmful effects," said Dr Caitlin Notley, the lead author and a researcher at the University of East Anglia's medical school.
"Women who saw smoking as a way of coping with stress were more likely to relapse. Feeling low, lonely, tired and coping with things like persistent crying were also triggers. Women reported that cravings for nicotine which had lessened or stopped during pregnancy returned," Notley added.
It also found that "while most mothers who gave up before or during the pregnancy managed to stay stopped after the birth, a minority did start smoking again". In addition, "less than a year after the birth of their baby over three in 10 mothers (31%) who had stopped during pregnancy were smoking again".
"Many felt that smoking after the birth of their child was acceptable provided they protected their babies from secondhand smoke. Their focus is, admirably, on the health of the baby, but they often do not think about the long-term consequences for themselves as mothers," it said.
Women with no partner or with a partner who smoked were much more likely to relapse, they found. However, most women who remained smoke-free after giving birth said their partner's support in doing so was an important factor.
"Partners who gave up smoking, or altered their own smoking behavior, were a particularly good influence. And those who helped ease the stress of childcare were also praised by women who had resisted the urge to light up," said Notley.
Rosanna O'Connor, the director of alcohol, drugs and tobacco at Public Health England, urged women who smoke to quit in pregnancy and stay away from cigarettes once they had become mothers. "Stopping smoking is the best thing a woman and her partner can do to protect their own health and the health of their baby, both during pregnancy and after. Quitting and remaining smoke-free can be difficult and, like many smokers, parents may need help."