Record low numbers of women smoking during pregnancy

The number of women smoking during pregnancy in Greater Manchester has dropped to the lowest on record.

Monday, 12th July 2021, 11:17 am

Smoking at the Time of Delivery (SATOD) rates have fallen by around a quarter in the past four years – down from one in eight new mothers in 2017-18 to fewer than one in 10 in 2020-21, meaning 945 more babies were born smoke-free.

It is being hailed as the success of the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnerships’ Smokefree Pregnancy programme which was set up in 2018 and is recognised as best practice nationally.

Between April 2020 and March 2021 the programme supported more than 1,700 people to stop smoking, including pregnant women and their partners, and saw a 65 per cent successful quit rate.

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The programme was created as part of efforts to give every baby the best start to life. NHS maternity staff in the city region are given comprehensive training to have honest conversations about the risks of smoking, use carbon monoxide (CO) screening to check for exposure to tobacco smoke and refer people who need help to a maternity-led stop smoking service.

Smoking during pregnancy or passive smoking can raise CO levels in the body. This poisonous gas can restrict the oxygen supply to the baby and significantly increase the risk of complications such as miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.

During the pandemic, the number of women referring themselves to the stop smoking service increased, and personal carbon monoxide monitors were issued, allowing service users to complete CO screenings at home that linked through to a smartphone app which the specialist midwives could track to validate their quit journey.

Specialist midwife Andi Robertson said: “While it’s true that some smokers are able to stop as soon as they find out they are pregnant, for lots of people it’s just not that easy.

“Not every pregnancy is planned, and smoking is a serious addiction which many get hooked on when they are just teenagers.

“The increased hormones and metabolic changes during pregnancy often make cravings even more intense. We know that parents-to-be are more likely to quit if they get the right support, without the worry of being judged. That’s why a stop smoking service run by experts is so important.”

The service offers one-to-one support and free nicotine replacement that is safe to use during pregnancy and beyond. Service users that meet eligibility criteria are also incentivised to stay smokefree with vouchers to help them prepare for the arrival of their new baby.

The GM Smokefree Pregnancy programme is a key part of the city region’s population health plan to improve health and reduce inequalities for the area’s 2.8 million residents.

Top tips to help you stop smoking in pregnancy:

Get support from a midwife who will refer you to a specialist stop smoking service;

Don’t be afraid to open up – you won’t be judged. The specialist team are understanding and there to make sure you get the support you need;

Remember your reasons for quitting – protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life;

Quit together with your partner or other family members and help each other. A smokefree home is a much safer environment for your family;

Don’t give up – quitting is a challenge and it can sometimes take more than one attempt. The earlier you stop, the better, but quitting at any stage will benefit you and baby.