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Dealing with Cravings
Many women want to smoke again after they have quit. Smoking is part of your everyday routine, and is also an addiction. Cravings happen as your body gets used to not having nicotine anymore. You might get a craving whenever your brain notices you are low in nicotine. Cravings can also be related to your routines or your memories of smoking. These cravings might happen when you see or smell others smoke, from your daily habits such as your morning coffee or with other cues such as stress.
Physical cravings are also called nicotine withdrawal. When you stop smoking, you might feel nicotine withdrawal that makes you feel physical cravings for a cigarette. This might feel like anxiety, depression, restlessness, headaches or hunger. If you have nicotine withdrawal, smoking can be relaxing because it will help take away these feelings. But, as your body gets used to not smoking, many good things happen. For example, you will be able to smell and taste better, you will be able to breathe easier and you will have better circulation. But as your body gets rid of the nicotine and begins to recover, some of the symptoms can feel unpleasant.
Symptoms of nicotine withdrawal include:
  • Feeling irritable or cranky
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Coughing
  • Stomach pain
  • Increased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Weight gain
  • Dry mouth
The good news is that nicotine withdrawal symptoms will go away!  This part of quitting is different for everyone, but it doesn’t last long- usually only 1 to 2 weeks. Talk to your doctor, nurse, midwife or doula about using nicotine replacement therapy such as the patch or medications that can help reduce these symptoms.
Cravings that happen because of routines or memories of smoking may last longer. Read our pages on stressors and cues to learn more about some of the reasons you may have the urge to smoke.  For example: drinking alcohol or coffee, feeling bored, after meals, and seeing others smoke. This will be different for every woman because routines and memories of smoking are different for all of us. While they may last longer than physical cravings, urges will not last forever.
Here are some ways to deal with cravings:
  • Cravings are very difficult, but they pass after several minutes. 
  • Cravings are short, delay the urge to smoke until it passes.
  • Plan for these 5 minute cravings so that you can notice them when they happen.
  • Cravings can be so strong that it is difficult to think of anything but smoking, so plan ahead.   Think of times in your life where you know you will have cravings, and plan for how you will deal with them.
  • Do anything that keeps your mind and body busy to distract yourself when you have a craving.  Drink a glass of water, play a computer game, go for a walk, call a friend, take a shower, do a puzzle.  
  • If you are somewhere and you find it very difficult not to smoke, such as being at a party or in a car with someone who is smoking, leave the situation.
  • Remind yourself of all of the reasons why you have decided to reduce or quit smoking. Try writing these reasons down on a piece of paper that you can read when you are having a craving.
  • Focus on positive thoughts. Do not be hard on yourself for having a craving and remember that it is a natural part of quitting or reducing smoking.
“Slips” happen when you have a cigarette while you are trying to reduce or quit.   It is a good idea to be ready for slips. Do not let the slip lead to returning to smoking.  Make a plan to prevent slips and to deal with them if they happen.
You can prevent slips by using the same tips above for dealing with cravings. Think about what situation you would most likely be in if you were to smoke again, and then think about what you would do so you don’t smoke.  It might help to write these ideas down.
You can also watch for warning signs – thoughts or actions that usually happen before a slip. 
Here are some common thoughts women might have that lead to a slip:
  • One won’t hurt.
  • I’m sure I can smoke socially now that I’ve quit.
  • I’m stressed! Just this one to help me get through this.
  • I’ve been quit for long enough that I have control over this.
  • Now that the baby is born, I can have a cigarette to reward myself for being smoke-free during my pregnancy.
If you do have a slip, do not be hard on yourself about it. It is important not to focus on feelings of guilt or failure that might come from a slip. These feelings may not make you feel very confident or good about yourself. Slips are a normal part of the quitting process, and they are something you can triumph over. Don’t let a slip be the reason you return to smoking.  Think of where you were, what you were doing, who you were with, and how this may have led to you smoking. Think about what you will do so you don’t have a slip the next time it happens.  Throw away any other cigarettes you have and commit right away to quitting again.
Learn from your slip, plan for next time and stay positive!