Region pioneers new drive to help pregnant women stop smoking

The Northern Echo: The dangers of smoking while pregnant The dangers of smoking while pregnant

A MAJOR initiative to protect unborn babies from the harm caused by smoking and to tackle the worst rates of smoking during pregnancy in the country is being rolled out across the North-East.

babyClear, led by the North-East’s tobacco control office – Fresh - is a UK first aimed at reducing premature births, stillbirths, miscarriages and complications after labour due to smoking.

The project is supported by all eight of the North-East's Foundation Trusts, heads of midwifery and NHS Stop Smoking Services to ensure every woman smoking during pregnancy is given factual information about the harmful effects of carbon monoxide (CO) and encouraged to quit.

Although the North-East has seen large drops in smoking over the last decade, the region still has the worst rates of smoking in pregnancy in England, with nearly one in five (19 per cent) North-East women are smoking compared to around one in eight (12 per cent) nationally.

Midwives in every North- East trust are now including systematic carbon monoxide testing as part of the routine tests all women receive.

All high readings will be referred to NHS Stop Smoking Services within 48 hours.

At the first scan any women still smoking will be given a more detailed explanation of the potential harm to the foetus from tobacco smoke.

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust was the first in the North- East to adopt this new programme, with 90 per cent of women going on to take the first steps towards quitting.

When a smoker inhales, the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco are absorbed through the lungs and move into the bloodstream. In pregnant women, the chemicals are passed to the baby via the placenta, depriving the unborn infant of vital oxygen.

A report by the Royal College of Physicians found maternal smoking causes up to 5,000 miscarriages, 300 perinatal deaths and 2,200 premature births a year nationwide.

Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: "Smoking during pregnancy is an issue the North-East needs to collectively address together, and babyClear is a national first.”

Anne Holt, head of midwifery at County Durham and Darlington, said: "We found many women were shocked and had not previously fully understood the process of how poisonous chemicals reach the baby.”

More than 1,400 women quit smoking during pregnancy with the help of NHS Stop Smoking Services in the North-East between 2011-13.

  • NHS Stop Smoking Services are on 0800 011 3405.

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