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Friday, 18 April 2014

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13% of Cumbrian mums smoke throughout pregnancy

Disturbing figures have revealed that more than 13 per cent of Cumbrian women risked the health of their unborn babies by smoking throughout pregnancy.

But the figure – representing 151 expectant mothers – is a welcome reduction on last year’s figure of 15.6 per cent, according to one health professional.

Experts believe the fall reflects local efforts to drive home the message that smoking during pregnancy can cause serious harm, producing babies that are significantly smaller and weaker than they would otherwise be.

Su Sear, a senior public health improvement specialist in the county, said: “It matters because smoking in pregnancy means that you end up with a smaller baby.

“Some mums think it’s a good thing and that having a smaller baby means an easier birth but that’s a myth that has to be challenged. It doesn’t mean an easier birth and the longer term effects for an underweight baby are bad.

“Babies born to a mother who smokes are more likely to be premature, have decreased lung function, and be poorly developed because they’ve not been able to take as much oxygen from the mother because of the CO2.”

Evidence also suggests that a significant number of miscarriages are down to the mother smoking. “One in five of the babies who end up in a hospital’s high dependency unit after special care will be there because of smoking,” explained Su.

“But the Cumbrian figure for this year shows that there is a steady decline.

“The national average is about nine per cent smoking in pregnancy but we have done a lot of hard work in Cumbria and have just bought a CO2 monitor, which will mean that midwives can offer to check every single mother.

“It will show the mother how much their baby is being affected by what is effectively passive smoking.”

The figures have been put together by the national Health and Social Care Information Centre. In Blackpool, 31 per cent were smoking during pregnancy while in Richmond, in Surrey, the figure was just over one per cent.

  • Any woman who smokes and who is pregnant or even thinking of getting pregnant is encouraged to talk to a midwife and make an appointment with the professionals, who can help them kick the habit. The number to call is 01900 324 222.

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