MORE women are putting their unborn babies’ lives at risk by smoking during pregnancy.
Startling statistics show that almost one in five mums-to-be in Portsmouth smoked in 2009/10.
That equates to 537 women – the highest number of smoking mums-to-be in the area covered by The News – and a rise from the 425 pregnant women who smoked in the city in 2008/09.
Health officials say the figures are a concern but could be down to a better system of recording pregnant women who smoke, and mums-to-be being more honest about smoking. The NHS says it is doing all it can to help women quit.
Simon Bryant, acting associate director of public health for NHS Portsmouth, said: ‘We’re always looking to reduce smoking among all the population but pregnant women are very important to us because of the double impact on them and their unborn child.
‘Women are asked if they smoke at their first appointment and are then referred to the smoking cessation service. There they get support to give up. We do everything we can to help.’
Health workers who deal with smoking mums-to-be particularly look to highlight the risks to the baby – such as miscarriage, stillbirth, and low birth weight. And research has now confirmed a direct link between smoking and defects such as cleft palate or missing or deformed limbs. Even after birth, a baby is more at risk of cot death and respiratory problems.
Mr Bryant said: ‘There’s many risks to the baby but a mother will also benefit by giving up. She’ll be less at risk of things like cancer and heart disease. But also, for someone to give birth they need to be in the best condition and giving up smoking will help their body prepare.’
He added: ‘We encourage women to give up smoking as early as possible, but it’s always a benefit whenever you give up through a pregnancy.’
Elsewhere in the area 13.6 per cent of pregnant women smoked in 2009/10 in Havant (172 women), Fareham (139 women) and Gosport (139 women). This was below the England average of 14 per cent, while Portsmouth (19.6 per cent) was above. For help to stop smoking call PompeyQuit on (023) 9236 9234 or visit pompeyquit.com, or call Hampshire Quit4Life on 0845 602 4663 or visit quit4life.nhs.uk.
· Are you a mum-to-be who smokes? Would you like to talk about why? Call health reporter Rachel Hawthorn on (023) 9262 2169