Hundreds of Wigan women smoking while pregnant
Health officials say they need to step up efforts to stub out smoking among expectant mothers, with women from deprived areas at particular risk of complications caused by cigarettes.
New NHS Digital data shows 16 per cent of mums who gave birth between April and September in the Wigan Clinical Commissioning Group area were smokers – representing 256 out of the 1,645 maternities recorded during that time.
This was far higher than the six per cent target the Government wants CCGs to meet by the end of 2022.
Health experts continue to warn against smoking during pregnancy due to the serious health problems it can cause.
They include complications during labour and a raised risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and sudden, unexpected death in infancy.
Despite the dangers, only 28 of 191 CCGs in England are already below the incoming target.
With 10 per cent of mothers known to be smokers at the time of delivery, the Department of Health and Social Care has acknowledged it “must do more” to bring levels down.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: “Smoking during pregnancy is a leading cause of still birth, miscarriage and birth defects.
“The proportion of women smoking during pregnancy nationally has stuck at just over one in 10 for years now, and in some areas is as high as one in four. This is a disgrace, and demands urgent action.”
The British Lung Foundation cautions that smoking’s dwindling popularity among the general public still poses problems for policymakers.
“As smoking rates fall, the remaining smokers are likely to be those who need the most help,” said Rachael Hodges, the health charity’s senior policy officer.
“Stop smoking services benefit people from disadvantaged communities where smoking rates are typically higher.”
However, “harsh cuts” to public health funding have left CCGs and councils struggling to offer this support, she added.
Prof Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England, said: “Having a baby in this country is now safer than ever but smoking while carrying a baby puts both parent and child at avoidable and potentially deadly risk.
“No woman should have to experience the heartbreak of stillbirth, and quitting smoking is absolutely vital for a healthy mum and a healthy baby.
“The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a programme of measures including stop smoking classes for all pregnant women, which will make giving birth even safer, and build on progress in NHS care which has helped reduce stillbirths by 20 per cent.”
A joint statement from Wigan Council and Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust said: “All pregnant women are now CO breath tested by the maternity team and referred when appropriate to Healthy Routes for further ‘stop smoking’ support.
“We also offer support through our community health services and our Start Well family services.
“Healthy Routes can also help other members of the family who smoke to become smoke free for the benefit of themselves and the baby.
“Our aspiration is that all babies will be born into a smoke free environment in the next 10 years and Wigan Maternity service is working closely with Wigan Council to provide training for midwives and ongoing support for women and families to achieve this goal.
“Stopping smoking has many benefits for your baby. It will reduce the risk of stillbirth and sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of your baby’s life and also the risk of your baby being born too early or being too small, which can cause problems during and after birth such as with breathing and feeding.
Further information about stop smoking through Healthy Routes Wigan is available at www.healthyrouteswigan.co.uk or by phone, at 01942 489012.