Almost one-in-five women in Sunderland are still smoking at the time they give birth.
The shock new figure is the second highest in the North East region.
Stopping smoking is the best thing that and expectant mother can do.Coun John Kelly, the council’s portfolio holder for health, wellness and culture
The latest data, released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre for April 2014 to March, show that 19.4% of the city’s mums were smoking while pregnant, compared to the English average of 11 %.
During this time 2,739 woman on Wearside fell pregnant and of those, 531 continued to smoke. However, this is a slight decrease when compared to the previous financial year’s 19.7%.
Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for health, wellness and culture Coun John Kelly is urging mum’s to quit their bad habits.
He said: “Smoking is the single most preventable cause of ill-health and premature death facing our city and, sadly, rates of smoking in pregnancy for Sunderland have been higher than the national average for some time.
“Stopping smoking is the best thing that an expectant mother can do for their own health and the health of their baby.
“Smokers and their partners can access support through a trained health care assistant or stop smoking advisor based in a local GP practice, pharmacy or community organisation.”
Lisa Surtees, acting director of anti-smoking group Fresh, is hoping more mums will take notice of the Babyclear programme, which helps midwives in maternity units explain the dangers of smoking.
She said: “Babyclear is a national-first to embed best practice in every maternity unit across a whole region.
“Midwives are the best placed health professionals to deliver really important health information to pregnant women across a whole range of topics.”
To quit smoking, call 0800 107 0741.