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MHP's smoke-free program celebrates three families

Major Health Partners found that prenatal smoking for patients had risen to 25.2 percent.

To address that problem, the national cessation program for pregnant women and their families, Baby & Me – Tobacco Free, was brought to Shelby County in 2017. Since then, the prenatal smoking rate has decreased to 17 percent. And the past two quarters show that the 17 percent consists of mothers who declined the program or did not receive prenatal care at MHP.

On Monday, the first three women who have competed one year in the program were celebrated at Major Health Partners.

Jessica and Charles Smith’s daughter, Laney, arrived on Jan. 28, 2019. Both parents made the commitment to quit and have stayed true to the program.

Justine McKillips delivered her son on Jan. 7, 2019, in Johnson County but continued to come to MHP for the program.

Brenna Croft delivered her daughter, Aliyah, on Jan. 10, 2019. She quit smoking two weeks before starting the program and has completed one year along with the Smith family and McKillips.

“I wrote for the grant in 2017 for the Indiana State Department of Health,” said Sharon Hammond, a registered nurse and maternal child navigator at MHP. “And we were able to bring the program to MHP.”

There were strict rules to participate in the program, though, which made the successes celebrated Monday even more meaningful.

“I would get referrals from the physicians. Any mom who was a smoker within three months of their pregnancy qualified for the program,” said Hammond. “There were four prenatal sessions. And the moms had to be smoke free by session three.”

To spur participation in the program, each participant received a $25 diaper voucher monthly (through Walmart) after their child was born. Part of the goal is to keep them smoke free, according to Hammond.

“We do education at each session (for 12 months) and they do a smokerlyzer that measures carbon monoxide that lets me know they are still smoke free,” said Hammond.

Hammond has found moms are motivated to be smoke free during their pregnancy. The hard part is keeping them that way after child birth.

“Most of the moms are very anxious to quit smoking during their pregnancy,” she said. “It’s a little harder to get them to stay smokefree after the baby is born. They get busy and they get stressed. On a national average, about six months is the average when they (start smoking again).”

McKillip was about 20 weeks pregnant she estimated when she reached out to the program.

“Actually, smoking when I was pregnant made me really sick,” admitted McKillip. “Every time I would smoke, I would get sick.”

McKillips had been smoking for about 3-4 years she believed before enrolling in the program and giving birth to her son, Jason Burford.

“It feels great,” she said to have completed one year.

Jessica Smith had a similar sickness response as McKillips to smoking and being pregnant.

“I knew I wanted to quit but it was hard,” admitted Smith, who has a 9-year-old son, Lucas, and now a nearly one-year-old daughter, Laney. “Now I get diapers and wipes and that stuff is not always cheap.”

Smith quit during her first pregnancy but started smoking again after he was born.

“As soon as I left the hospital with (Lucas) I started smoking again,” she said.

A habit since she was 15, Smith found new motivation and support from her husband, who said he started smoking when he was 10. Charles was not initially going to participate in the program but found he needed to quit as well.

“Me smoking in my car, at home, I didn’t want to keep going outside in the cold,” he said. “With her coming (to the program), I didn’t want to smoke in my car anymore.”

So one day, he chose to quit.

“I texted her from work and said I’m not going to buy a pack of cigarettes when I leave work and give it a shot,” he said. “I didn’t use gum. I didn’t use a patch. I didn’t vape. Nothing.

“It’s about the 50th time I’ve tried to quit. I quit because of (Laney). I didn’t want it around her.”

Croft and her daughter were unable to attend Monday’s celebration.

Smoking in pregnancy decreases oxygen and blood flow to the fetus. Prenatal smoking increases the risk of low birth weight, increases prematurity by up to 40 percent, and is the No. 1 cause of placental abruption, according to Major Health Partners. Some birth defects can also be related to prenatal smoking.

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