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Exercise to aid smoking cessation during pregnancy

New research commissioned by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment (NIHR HTA) programme will investigate if supervised exercise, added to standard smoking cessation support, can help pregnant smokers to quit.

Around 20% of pregnant women smoke and researchers say it can cause significant health problems in the unborn child. Smoking cessation counselling can help pregnant smokers to stop, but success rates are low and few women attend such treatments. In addition, many pregnant women prefer not to use pharmaceutical aids to stop smoking.
Moderate intensity activity (eg, brisk walking) is recommended for nearly all women as part of antenatal care. For non-pregnant women, previous research has suggested that supervised exercise (eg, treadmill walking) can help them to stop smoking.
Researchers at St George’s, University of London, led by Dr Michael Ussher, will assess the effectiveness of smoking cessation counselling alongside physical activity, compared with smoking cessation counselling alone, in aiding pregnant women to stop smoking by the end of pregnancy.
“Smoking during pregnancy is the most important cause of preventable harm to babies and infants. Stopping smoking reduces this harm and reduces a woman’s risk of developing other harmful effects of smoking, such as cancer.” says Dr Ussher.

“If the intervention is found to be effective it would provide a valuable blueprint for the construction of physical activity programmes for pregnant smokers, and for smokers in general, receiving smoking cessation treatment through the NHS.”

NIHR Health Technology Assessment Programme