ALMOST a fifth of pregnant women in Sunderland smoke, figures reveal.
And despite the city being one of the lower areas for the dangerous habit in the North East, the region is still the area where expectant mums are more likely to light up than anywhere else in the country.
Researchers found that 18.7 per cent of pregnant women smoked in the past year.
But Wearside comes out better than most other areas of the region, with 27.6 per cent of mums in Redcar and Cleveland, choosing to smoke during the whole of their pregnancy.
The rate in Sunderland is lower than the North East average, which is 19.3 per cent, but still well above the England average of 12.8 per cent.
The statistics were revealed from the network of Public Health Observatories, which creates health profiles of each area, and comes after the Echo reported earlier this week that hundreds of mums-to-be in Sunderland are addicted to alcohol or drugs – or in some cases, both.
Martyn Willmore, who is performance manager for anti-smoking group Fresh, said: “From our point of view, we are working hard with midwives to get across to pregnant mothers how important it is to stop smoking.
“We are also de-bunking a lot of myths regarding smoking during pregnancy.
“Some mums might think that if they do smoke when pregnant their baby will weigh less, but it’s more likely to be a difficult birth and it’s more likely that the baby will stay in hospital longer once they are born.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Every cigarette smoked exposes both mum and baby to a cocktail of toxic chemicals.
“It also deprives the baby of vital oxygen, putting him or her at risk of poor physical and mental growth and reduced lung development.
“The North East still has the worst rates of smoking during pregnancy but we have also seen the largest falls as well.
We need to get more messages out about these dangers but we also need to remind mums who smoke that NHS Stop Smoking Services can help them to quit.”
If you want to quit, call Sunderland NHS Stop Smoking Service on 0800 531 6317.