Smoking in pregnancy is a sensitive issue which needs to be treated as an addiction and not a lifestyle choice, according to health care professionals in Somerset. Recent statistics suggest that 10% of babies delivered in the county are born to pregnant smokers – bringing a wide range of potential complications and health impacts and increasing the pressures and financial impact on local services.
Kate Beaumont, Public Health Lead Midwife for Somerset, has warned that unless the issue is treated seriously and sensitively, smoking will continue to be a leading cause of miscarriage, premature birth and even cot death. She says:
To a large extent smoking in pregnancy has become a hidden problem, as it is no longer socially acceptable to smoke in public places and there is a growing stigma around smoking in pregnancy. However, this does not mean that it is not still happening, it’s just now taking place behind closed doors.
Smoking in the home is a big issue, it’s not visible and parents may not be seeking the help they need or be aware of the free support available to them. We also know that secondhand smoke, from others smoking in the home, can be just as harmful for babies and we need to ensure that we are talking about this.
We are very lucky in Somerset to have a service called Mums2Be Smokefree, which offers free support and medication. Once parents engage with the service, the success rate in staying smoke free is very high, so I would urge families to accept their support.
Nicki Griffiths, a midwife based in Chard, says smoking in pregnancy needs to be treated as an addiction, and not as a “lifestyle choice”. She says families need to be offered judgement-free support such as that offered by Mums2Be Smokefree. Nicki says:
Often women have stopped smoking as soon as they found out they were pregnant, but a stressful event might have happened since then, such as an older child struggling at school or conflict with a partner, and they take up smoking again. This is where they need the support.
When a pregnant woman / person comes in for ante-natal appointments we always take a carbon monoxide reading. If it’s above a certain level we will make a referral to Mums2Be Smokefree. We are non- judgmental and we understand just how hard it is to beat this addiction.
Together with Mums2Be we can support you and your family to be smoke free – Let’s Kick it Together!
Mums2Be Smokefree is part of Smokefreelife Somerset, which offers one-to-one support to help quit smoking before, during and after pregnancy. Alongside Nicotine Replacement Therapy which is provided free of charge by the service, it offers free support and shopping vouchers as incentives at different smoke free stages. The service also supports significant others wishing to quit. Appointments take place at home and by telephone. Contact Smokefreelife Somerset on 01823 356222.
Image: Kate Beaumont