Pregnant women can get computer help to stop smoking

March 18, 2004|GARY MOYERS

Pregnant women in Boyle County who want to stop smoking can get a technological assist from the Boyle County Health Department.

Lifesigns uses a handheld computer, supplied by the health department, to gradually wean smokers from the habit without the use of nicotine replacement therapy, critical for women who are pregnant.

"Nicotine replacement is simply not an option for pregnant women," said health department director Roger Trent. "This is a behavioral modification program using computer software. I'm hoping we can generate some excitement in the medical community for this program, because it is a critical area we need to address."

Trent said nicotine is one of the "High 5" substances considered by experts to be highly addictive.

"Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, alcohol and nicotine are the five most common addictive substances medical professionals face," said Trent. "What makes nicotine so tough is the body's quick reaction to it. When you inhale a puff of smoke it takes only seven seconds for the brain receptors to react."


According to figures supplied by Trent, 23 percent of pregnant women in Kentucky smoked during their pregnancies in 1999 and 2000. That translates to 78 mothers who smoked during their pregnancy in Boyle County in 2000.

"We are all well aware of the dangers of smoking during pregnancy," said Trent. "It leads to a much greater incidence of complications and chronic problems for the infant."

Trent said the Boyle County Agency for Substance Abuse Policy, of which he is chairman, identified the problem and submitted a grant proposal to fund the cessation program.

"We've received funding to purchase 200 of the Lifesigns programs," said Trent. "We plan to distribute them to major health providers, particularly in the obstetrics specialty, to identify and aid pregnant women in our community who have a desire to stop smoking. We'll even provide them to women who smoke who also plan to become pregnant in the next year."

Program is a "three-step process"

Lifesigns includes the palm-sized electronic device into which smokers program their smoking habits during the first week of use. Beginning with the second week of use, users follow the program outlined by the device, which guides the smoker to gradually cut down on cigarette use, eventually weaning the user off nicotine completely.

"It's a three-step process," said Trent. "First, the program computes your smoking habits by your honest input. Second, the smoker participates in the program using computer guidance. And third, you live as a nonsmoker.

"The program generally takes four to five weeks, at which point, hopefully, we have a nonsmoker," he said. "It has a life cycle of two programs, so if the smoker suffers a setback and wishes to begin again, she can."

Trent said the Lifesigns program is a result of community input.

"We received suggestions from the community regarding what programs they felt we need to focus on, and smoking by pregnant women was one of the top," he said.

Trent pointed to a study by Frederiksen, Prue, Orlandi, Edelman and Wynder that said Lifesigns produces follow-up abstinence rates of 33 percent after one month, 25 percent after three months and 18 percent after six months, rates that compare favorably with other clinical and non-clinical cessation programs.

"That doesn't sound like a lot, but 18 percent of 78 mothers means after six months, 15 of those mothers no longer smoke," said Trent. "The program works; I've seen results myself."

Women interested in the program may contact the Boyle County Health Department (859) 236-2053 or the obstetrics practices of Drs. Glover, Harrison, Ahnquist and Alexander and Dr. Susan Coleman. Ephraim McDowell Regional Medical Center is also a sponsor of the program.

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