Craving and Withdrawal Symptoms During Smoking Cessation: Comparison of Pregnant and Non-Pregnant Smokers

Ivan Berlin, Edward G. Singleton, Stephen J. Heishman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Although pregnant smokers are aware of the negative peri- and postnatal health consequences of smoking, the cessation rate in pregnancy is low, raising the question of why pregnant smokers have difficulty quitting. Reasons might be that pregnant smokers experience more intense craving and withdrawal symptoms than non-pregnant smokers. We compared craving and withdrawal in 306 pregnant smokers versus 93 non-pregnant women using data from two smoking cessation trials. Complete data were analyzed using pre-quit and post-quit (2 weeks after quit date) craving and withdrawal measured by the 12-item French Tobacco Craving Questionnaire (FTCQ-12) and French Minnesota Nicotine Withdrawal Scale (FMNWS). Pregnant smokers started smoking and smoked regularly earlier and succeeded far less at quitting smoking by week 2 than the general population of smokers (11% versus 43%). Post-quit date FTCQ-12 general score was higher in pregnant smokers compared to comparison groups, and was driven by elevated emotionality and expectancy. FMNWS decreased significantly less among pregnant smokers than among non-pregnant smokers. Insufficient reduction of craving and withdrawal symptoms in response to a quit attempt may partially explain why pregnant smokers may have more difficulty quitting than non-pregnant smokers. Because this was a historical comparison, findings are preliminary; however, they might foster further investigation of differences in craving and withdrawal symptoms in pregnant versus non-pregnant smokers.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18-24
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Substance Abuse Treatment
StatePublished - Apr 1 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Craving to smoke
  • Non-pregnant female smokers
  • Pregnant smokers
  • Smoking cessation
  • Withdrawal symptoms

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Phychiatric Mental Health
  • Medicine (miscellaneous)


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