Public health professor finds texting program can help pregnant women quit smoking

A professor in the Milken Institute School of Public Health found that a texting program can help some pregnant women quit smoking, according to a study published this week.

The study enrolled a group of pregnant women, who were seeking help quitting smoking, in a texting service that sent several messages a day about the dangers of cigarettes and offered help to expectant mothers experiencing a craving, according to a release. The research showed some progress in helping participants quit, but researchers cautioned the difference was relatively slim.

Lorien Abroms, an associate professor of prevention and community health, said the study recruited 500 pregnant women, who smoked an average of seven cigarettes each day, to test the effectiveness of the program.

The study, “A Randomized Trial of Text Messaging for Smoking Cessation in Pregnant Women,” was published Monday in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Researchers recruited pregnant women who were already enrolled in the text program Text4baby, which previous studies have found to be more effective in preventing women from drinking than in helping them fight the urge to smoke, to join a new program called Quit4baby, specifically focused on smoking.

“Our findings show that a text messaging program helped some groups of pregnant women quit smoking during pregnancy,” Abroms said in the release. “The study’s findings suggest a potential new quitting strategy, especially for those later in their pregnancies and older pregnant women.”

Quit4baby sends between one and eight text messages a day that aim to encourage women to quit smoking. These texts include information about health issues related to smoking and give women the option to text back for additional support, according to the release. Abroms said there is still limited support for expectant mothers addicted to smoking.

The study found that after three months, 16 percent of women who used both Text4baby and Quit4baby quit smoking, compared to 11 percent who only used Text4baby.

The study found that the program appeared to benefit two groups of women in particular: those age 26 and older and those in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. Many women in those groups were able to avoid smoking until their delivery dates, but many struggled quit permanently, according to the release.

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