Anne-Marie standing in her garden, with her hands on her baby bump. She is smiling.

“Finding out I was pregnant was a major turning point for me and I knew I needed to quit smoking as soon as possible for the health of my baby.”

When mum-of-four, Anne-Marie, found out she was pregnant with her fifth baby, she made the decision to stop smoking with the help of the maternity support at her local stop smoking service. Despite the stress of lockdown, the Normanton property landlady is determined to stop for good.

Anne-Marie, 42, said: “Finding out I was pregnant was a major turning point for me and I knew I needed to quit smoking as soon as possible for the health of my baby.

“I stopped smoking just before the coronavirus lockdown came into effect. The maternity support has been brilliant. As soon as I made the decision to stop, I had help with patches and an inhalator.

“I knew I could quit because I had done it before, for a lot of years. I smoked on and off between 17 and 20, but stopped until I was 38 – so I was 18 years quit. I only started again when I was going through a difficult divorce. I was so stressed, and I turned to smoking because I thought it helped me to relax. The past few years haven’t been easy and I put off quitting because I was going through some tough times.

“I have three girls and a boy – and now another little boy on the way with my partner. My children are my world and I just want to protect my baby in the best way I can.

“As it has for many people, lockdown has been a stressful time. There have been times when I’ve been tempted to start smoking again but thinking of my unborn child has got me through. As time has gone on, it has got easier. My partner still smokes on and off – but I feel so much stronger now and I’m saving a fortune. I will never go back to smoking.

“I used to get a smokers cough, especially in the mornings. I’d wake up and have to clear my throat. Smoking affects your sense of smell too. You don’t notice it until you stop. I feel like I’ve got my taste buds back. I enjoy food more.

“At this time when people are suffering from coronavirus, it really makes you realise how much we take being able to breathe for granted. It’s awful to see how this terrible virus is affecting people. I don’t want to be in a situation where I’m putting my lungs at risk. I want to do everything I can to protect my health – for the sake of my family, my children and my little one on the way. I can’t imagine being a smoker and catching coronavirus. It’s very worrying and even more of a reason not to smoke again.

“The timing of my pregnancy and the current pandemic have been the motivation I needed to quit. Before, I would feel panicky if I couldn’t have a cigarette. Now I feel powerful and positive. It’s liberating to know that I can get through a stressful situation and not smoke. I have some fantastic support around me and I couldn’t have asked for more from the stop smoking service. No matter how stressed I am, I know that I don’t need cigarettes again.

“I think people are more aware of the harms of smoking now. The packaging used to be appealing and now it’s very off-putting. I even remember when you could even smoke on a plane – that’s just unimaginable now.

“My mum and dad used to smoke 40 plus cigarettes a day each – but they stopped with polo mints in their 40s! Now they’re in their 70s. Although dad suffers with dementia, mum is in good health and enjoys walking and exercising. My parents are thrilled that I have quit, so are my children.

“If you ask me what tips I’d give to others, I’d say to get your head around quitting first. Write down a list of all the pros and every time you feel like giving up, look back at the reasons why you decided to stop. Changing your routine helps. Brushing your teeth or having a mint is a good technique.

“Sadly, many women don’t quit smoking when they are pregnant, but just think of that amazing life inside of you – believe that you can do it.

“It is hard and you do have to be determined – but there’s lots you can do to avoid temptation. Take up a new hobby, join in an online fitness class, do positive things for yourself and your health.

“I remember a time when I’d wake up in the morning and need a cigarette. I’m a different person now. Time is so precious and now I can spend it enjoying life – rather than being tied to when I needed my next cigarette.”

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