“Pregnancy is a great time to quit,” says Keri Gerlach. “Many pregnant women are making healthy decisions already, such as eating better and becoming more active. This is just another healthy change.”
For the past year and a half, Gerlach has been offering the program on an outpatient basis to pregnant women and their partners. She often sees both the pregnant woman and her partner together.
The Maternity Centre at Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre (TBRHSC), in partnership with Dr. Patricia Smith (Northern Ontario School of Medicine), offers its patients the smoking cessation program. It is being run as a research study led by Dr. Smith, to implement the quit smoking intervention in Northwestern Ontario.
Gerlach says making healthy choices isn’t just for the baby. “If the woman is healthy, the baby is healthy. It’s important for the woman to do this for her own health as well. She is likely to be more successful at staying quit after she delivers the baby.”
Many of those referred to Gerlach have already cut down their smoking. “Some just need help eliminating the last few cigarettes. I let them know that they don’t have to quit that day. We come up with a quit plan that is tailored to them.” The approach is friendly, flexible, patient-centered and supportive.
The plan involves developing strategies for “trigger” situations and provides participants with self-management skills that are transferable to other parts of life. “We talk about ‘What else can you do in stressful situations besides smoking? What else gives you comfort?’”
Gerlach provides as many support sessions as the patient needs to get ready to quit; these can be in person or over the phone. She also provides follow-up support after they quit, with a regular schedule of calls for up to one year. The calls help keep patients on track with their quit goals and provide the opportunity to discuss and adjust their personalized program if necessary.
Gerlach says the women she sees have success. “The best part about it for me is knowing I am helping someone make a healthy change in their life and in their baby’s life.”
The Maternity Centre offers a comprehensive prenatal program and support services for women in Thunder Bay and Northwestern Ontario.
If you would like more information about the Tobacco Cessation program or other programs offered at the Maternity Centre, call: (807) 684-6228.