A FIFTH of mums-to-be smoked during pregnancy, new figures reveal.
The statistics, compiled by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), found that of the 2,929 babies born on Wearside over the past year, a total of 583 mums smoked up to the time of delivery – about 20 per cent, well above the national average of 12 per cent.
Health bosses said smoking mums were at risk of causing huge harm not only to their unborn child, but themselves as well.
Smoking while pregnant increases the chances of a stillbirth and can also mean the child will develop asthma.
Mums-to-be in Blackpool were the biggest culprits, with one-in-four mums lighting up during pregnancy (27.5 per cent). Central London had the lowest with 1.9 per cent.
A Sunderland Royal Hospital spokesman, said: “Smoking costs the region’s health services more than £110million every year – but the costs to individuals and their families is much more tragic, and very personal.
“Most smokers want to give up, and most know that if they become pregnant, then they should certainly stop.
“The dangers of smoking, and second-hand smoke, and the help available to those wanting to stop, are key messages that all pregnant mums are made aware of – by all healthcare staff.
“Mums who stop smoking will have less morning sickness, fewer complications in pregnancy and will reduce the risks of stillbirth, premature birth and cot death.
“Babies of women who smoke are on average 200g lighter than other babies and more prone to infection.
“The risks of smoking, to both mums and unborn babies, are widely known and promoted, but we have to work constantly to remind mums and families of the risks involved, their responsibilities, and that it is possible to give up.
“There can be no better reason to stop smoking, than to protect the health and wellbeing of a new life.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of anti-smoking group Fresh, said that the work of midwives was important in helping women to quit cigarettes when they find out they are expecting.
She said: “Although we have seen large reductions in smoking over the last decade, we still have the worst rates of smoking in pregnancy in England. It is an issue that needs to be tackled collectively.
“Midwives are best placed to relay information to women and this now includes carbon monoxide screening as part of the routine tests all women receive at their initial booking appointment, which is part of national Nice guidance.
“If women are still smoking at 12 weeks, the midwife will talk them through a more detailed explanation of the potential harm to the foetus from being exposed to carbon monoxide and other poisons in tobacco smoke.
“All women with high readings will be referred to NHS Stop Smoking Service for help to quit. It’s important partners quit too.”
“However, we need to remember that most women get hooked on smoking as children.
“We need standardised tobacco packaging as soon as possible. to remove glossy brands that make tobacco more attractive to children and young people.”