Even my ex-husband didn’t know I smoked. I would light up in secret and feel incredibly guilty. Now I’m smokefree, it feels great and I’m using my experiences to help mums-to-be.
Midwife Natalie quit smoking with the help of nicotine replacement and she now uses her experiences to help mums-to-be stop smoking. As a Saving Babies' Lives champion midwife at Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, she helps implement the national care bundle which aims to reduce stillbirth and early neonatal death.
My experiences have helped me to help my patients. I’m able to have honest conversations with them about my success with inhalators and about smoking throughout my second pregnancy. It means I can sympathise with people’s situations.
She said: “I started smoking when I was 13. Everybody did it back then and peer pressure was strong to join in. This led to me becoming a ‘proper’ smoker – smoking around 10-15 cigarettes every day. Even though I knew the harm it was doing, I continued to smoke throughout my midwife training and when qualified. As part of my job, I was telling people about the dangers of smoking and persuading them to give up but then smoking myself – I simply wasn’t listening to my own advice.
“When I became pregnant at 28, I had a scan at six weeks and they couldn’t find a heartbeat. I persuaded myself it was OK to carry on smoking until I saw a heartbeat. When this happened at the next scan, I quit for the remainder of the pregnancy. But I always told myself I would be able to start again once the baby was born – and, despite having quit for 12 months, I did.
“I hid my smoking from my ex-husband as I felt so guilty. I used to wait until he was bathing the baby and go into the garden for a cigarette. During my second pregnancy I really struggled to quit and found endless excuses not to. I couldn’t give up and used to have one or two cigarettes a day – it was my guilty secret. When my daughter was born a pound lighter than my first child, I knew why.
“At that point I’d been a midwife for six years and even featured in a newspaper article about the dangers of smoking and how it can double the risk of cot death. Even that didn’t stop me. Then I started working for the Saving Babies’ Lives programme. One of the biggest risks to stillbirth and neonatal death is smoking, so I knew I had to try and quit for good. Someone at work was trying a inhalator to help quit and it worked for them. I decided to give it a go too.
“Using an inhalator really helped address my nicotine cravings and I was finally able to quit for good. Now I’ve been smokefree for nearly three years and it feels great. I’m able to tell my children that I’m 100% never going to smoke again and they are really proud of me. My daughter even saved up her pocket money to take me out to celebrate. My ex-husband still swears he didn’t know I smoked!
“My experiences have helped me to help my patients. I’m able to have honest conversations with them about my success with inhalators and about smoking throughout my second pregnancy. It means I can sympathise with people’s situations.
“I know more than most how difficult it can be to stop smoking. I’ve thought about it for years and tried to get help. But this time I’ve done it and it’s worked. My experience shows if you’re determined to quit – you can. You just need to give it a go.”