What Works to Help Pregnant Smokers Quit

What Works to Help Pregnant Smokers Quit

Health plans know there are lots of good reasons to help pregnant smokers quit.

The earlier in their pregnancy, the better. There are risks to mom, and risks to baby—all of which add up to excess costs for health plans.

It’s estimated 20% of pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid smoke during pregnancy. This percentage runs higher in certain geographic locations and age groups—such as women younger than 24 years.

However, among most health plans, identifying pregnant smokers isn’t always easy or feasible. Pregnant smokers know the scrutiny they face, making them even more likely to hide their smoking status—and more difficult for health plans to reach. As a result, offering a cessation program that drives higher engagement among an entire population while also providing tailored support for pregnant smokers is essential.


Snapshot of pregnant smokers with statistics on Medicaid and expenditures


Supporting pregnant smokers through their quit

Pregnancy can be a powerful motivator for a smoker to quit. Offering an effective, easy-to-use and compassionate intervention is essential to help pregnant smokers quit successfully—and to reduce healthcare spending for smoking-related birth complications and other health issues.

At the EX Program, pregnant smokers receive tailored support through 3 primary pillars: expert and peer support, online content, and text messaging.

  1. Expert and peer support
    Through live chat coaching, pregnant women can interact with tobacco treatment experts. EX Coaches help tobacco users identify their motivations for quitting, determine which strategies are best for them, select and ship quitting medications as appropriate, and review a quitting plan tailored to their needs and past experiences. Plus, our EX Community provides compassionate support through peers who are struggling with the same challenges of living tobacco free while pregnant.
  2. Online content
    On our website, pregnant tobacco users, smokers trying to become pregnant, and women with newborns have access to the latest information about the benefits of quitting for mothers and babies. Our site also answers frequently asked questions about common concerns, such as the best methods to quit while pregnant or the fear of weight gain when quitting.
  3. Text messaging
    Women who are pregnant can sign up for our customized text messaging intervention.
    Our library of messages is written explicitly for pregnant women and women with newborns up to 12 months after delivery and addresses topics like:

    • The importance of quitting during pregnancy and staying quit after the baby is born
    • How to chat with an EX Coach or schedule a chat
    • Referrals to resources and additional information on the website

Once a quit date is set, women receive up to 12 weeks of messages that provide support, quizzes, and links to resources for every stage of the quitting process. In addition, women also receive messages each week until the end of pregnancy up to 1 year after the baby is born.

How to help more pregnant smokers quit tobacco

Smoking is one of the leading causes of poor pregnancy outcomes in the U.S. To learn more about how our digital tools help tobacco users—including pregnant smokers—successfully overcome their addiction to tobacco, visit our program page.

For more information on how to help pregnant smokers quit, see our blog Top Strategies for Promoting Smoking Cessation Pregnancy Programs.

Jessie Saul, Ph.D.

Director, Strategic Insights

Dr. Jessie Saul brings 19 years of experience in research, program evaluation, and strategic implementation around tobacco cessation. She applies this deep understanding to improve EX Program performance and reduce tobacco use among populations. She earned her Ph.D. in Science and Technology Studies from Cornell University.

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