BISMARCK, N.D. - Doctors are warning pregnant women.
A new study in the journal Pediatrics shows smoking just one cigarette a day during pregnancy can double the chance of sudden unexpected death for a baby. Their message is "every cigarette counts."
One mom shares her experience using the Baby and Me Tobacco Free Program in North Dakota to quit smoking for her health and her baby's safety.
"Two years, two months I haven't been smoking," said Destiny Maxon, mom.
Maxon has a constant reminder of why she took on one of the hardest challenges she'll ever experience.
"If it wasn't for her I would never probably quit smoking," said Maxon.
Childbirth is one test of strength, but quitting smoking is an accomplishment respiratory therapists agree she should celebrate every day.
"It's more addictive than heroin or cocaine because the drug that you're seeking goes from your fingers to your brain in five seconds or five heartbeats. So, it's a super tough addiction for these moms to be able to quit while they were pregnant is huge," said Ragean Backman, RT care manager at CHI St. Alexius.
A smoker since the age of 16, Maxon says she's tried to quit before, but, like so many others, started up again.
"It was very difficult. I didn't have the support or the encouragement that I did through this program," said Maxon.
The Centers for Disease Control suggests it might take eight to 11 times to successfully quit. But Maxon didn't feel that was an option. She wanted to protect her daughter from the harmful effects of nicotine and tobacco before little Meela was born.
"Those babies tend to be born at a lower birth weight and earlier in their gestation," said Backman.
And she wanted to give her a smokefree childhood.
"It's a nerve toxin for them, so they have an increased chance of having SIDS or things like that," said Backman.
With the help of Baby and Me Tobacco Free, Maxon got four prenatal sessions to teach her ways to modify her behavior and beat urges to light up.
"We try to do it without any medication if at all possible, and the expectation is that the mom quits smoking by the third session," said Backman.
The support and motivation was just what Maxon needed to succeed.
"It just makes me feel like a better person and I feel a lot healthier, and I have a healthy daughter because of it too," said Maxon.
Now, program leaders test her carbon dioxide levels every month after birth, which show she is still tobacco free, and in exchange Maxon gets $50 to spend on diapers or wipes.
Program leaders say they are encouraged to have helped more pregnant women than ever before make this monumental change, but they leave most of the credit up to mom.
"They have to want to, they have to have the motivation to do it and it has to be important to them," said Backman.
If you are pregnant or planning to be and want to quit smoking, check with your healthcare provider to get started in this free program.
Thanks to Baby and Me Tobacco Free, the state has the lowest ever recorded pregnancy smoking rate at 11.5 percent.