A Wisconsin woman’s story of smoking while pregnant is featured in a new ad aimed at helping others to quit. Amanda Brenden of Eau Claire was a 24-year old college student and a smoker when she gave birth prematurely to a baby girl who weighed only three pounds. She hopes her failure to quit her addiction will serve as a lesson to other moms.

“I think that women don’t think that something bad is going to happen to them, and I wanted to share my story to let pregnant women know that it can happen to you,” Brenden said during a press event Monday at the Capitol in Madison. Quitting smoking can be a challenge for anyone, but it can be even tougher for pregnant women. Brendon admitted that she smoked as way of dealing with stress, so it was hard to give up when dealing with the added stress of pregnancy.

Dr. Kathy Stewart, a UW physician who specializes in high-risk pregnancy, said women may not get a lot of support. “If everyone else is smoking, if dad is smoking, if grandparents are smoking and you’re in a community where smoking is acceptable, you’re asking one person to change when it’s a really stressful time in their life,” she said. Wisconsin has a culture of substance abuse that can also work against quitting. “We have a very high drinking and pregnancy rate, and I think some of that goes hand in hand,” said Tommi Thompson of the Wisconsin Women’s Health Foundation. According to research from UW-Milwaukee, 13 percent of pregnant women in Wisconsin smoke, compared to a national average of 10 percent.

Now seven, Brenden’s daughter suffers from asthma. “When I decided to be a part of this Tips campaign, I had to tell my daughter why she was born early, and get her permission to share this story,” she said. She credits the CDC campaign with inspiring her to finally quit smoking two years ago, with help through the WWHF First Breath program.

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