One in five women in Wales smoke while pregnant

WALES has the highest rates of women who smoke during their pregnancy in the UK, shocking figures reveal today.

Despite the social taboo, the figures from anti-smoking charity ASH Wales show one-in-five women continue to smoke throughout pregnancy.

Midwives said many young women are smoking while pregnant because they believe they will have smaller “doll-like” babies.

Helen Rogers, the Royal College of Midwives’ board secretary for Wales, said: “Years ago women thought if they continued to smoke they wouldn’t put on as much weight and they would have smaller babies that are easier to deliver.

“I thought that thinking had been educated out of existence but it hasn’t – there are a lot of teenagers who, to be in with the in- crowd, are smoking.

“They are getting pregnant and continuing to smoke because their peers are smoking.

“It’s about keeping pretty, keeping slim and having tiny, doll-like babies. No matter how much midwives say smoking is bad, it’s very hard to get that message through.”

She added: “I think maybe we thought we had cracked smoking and we’ve taken our eye off the ball.”

Smoking during pregnancy has been linked to a wide range of health problems in babies – including a low birth weight and an increased risk of asthma.

But smoking also increases the risk of still-birth or the death of a baby in the first four weeks of life by a third and almost a quarter of cot deaths are due to maternal smoking.

Women who smoke have more complications in pregnancy and labour – including up to two-and- a-half times the risk of an ectopic pregnancy – and are twice as likely to have premature births.

Tanya Buchanan, chief executive of ASH Wales, said: “We need to ensure that pregnant women who smoke have specific cessation and prevention programmes tailored to their needs, have appropriate referral interventions, midwives trained in tobacco cessation, and access to effective and equitable cessation services and products to support them in quitting for the benefit of their health and that of their child.

“While Stop Smoking Wales is trialling a number of initiatives to engage more effectively with pregnant smokers, it remains the case that there is currently a lack of systematic service delivery to support pregnant smokers to quit right across Wales.

“Although it can be hard to give up smoking, the benefits of quitting can be felt immediately and, as a mother, you are giving your child the best possible start in life and the chance of a healthier future.”

It is estimated smoking causes around 6,000 deaths every year in Wales, and costs the NHS £1.5bn to treat smoking-related illnesses each year. On average smokers need five attempts before they are successful in quitting the habit.

Dr Tony Jewell, Wales’ chief medical officer, said: “We are determined to do all we can to educate people about the dangers of smoking so they don’t start in the first place, and to provide help and support for smokers to quit.

“Health professionals, including GPs and midwives, offer advice and support to pregnant women to give up smoking for their benefit and the benefit of the unborn child.

“Stop Smoking Wales, funded by the Welsh Assembly Government, provides specialist advice and behavioural support to help smokers wanting to give up, either in groups or one-to-one.

“Smoking cessation during pregnancy is a priority area.”

source: walesonline.co.uk

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