Health chiefs' new plans for tackling high level of smoking during pregnancy

Health chiefs have launched fresh efforts to tackle the the high number of mums who smoke during pregnancy in East Durham.

Thursday, 8th August 2019, 4:45 pm
Updated Thursday, 8th August 2019, 5:01 pm
Picture from PA Wire

According to NHS data, the percentage of women smoking during pregnancy in the Easington, Sedgefield and Durham Dales area is almost double than for the North Durham region.

The rate of smoking at the time of delivery in County Durham is 16.8% – significantly higher than the England average of 10.4%.

A strategic plan was developed earlier this year with a target of reducing the county-wide figure to 6% or less by 2022.

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This was informed by a range of focus groups with pregnant smokers and includes CO monitors being made available to midwives.

Director of public health for Durham County Council, Amanda Healey, said changing perceptions around smoking was a key focus.

“What came out of the focus groups was that some of the things we should be doing are about good practice and driving quality,” the public health boss said.

“What [pregnant smokers] were telling us was that the referral pathways were fragmented and actually between maternity systems, the stop smoking services and children’s services, if we made those as consistent as possible that there was almost a safety net in place.

“When people have contact, it’s always about having that conversation which ensures women can be supported.

“It’s not easy, it’s that shift to tobacco dependency, so we’re not blaming women for smoking, it’s not a choice it’s an addiction.

The comments came during a meeting of County Durham’s Health and Wellbeing Board.

The meeting heard smoking during pregnancy can be linked to serious risks including low birth weight, stillbirth, miscarriage or heart defects.

Looking forward, Durham County Council has additional resources to improve stop smoking services and data recording.

While the ‘no-opt’ option for pregnant smokers also aims to act like a “funnel” to stop women falling through the gaps between services.

The Tobacco Dependency in Pregnancy Action Plan runs until 2022 and sets out several key challenges.

This includes research around “barriers to referrals”, “empowering pregnant women to expect to be tested” and social media marketing for under 20s – who are twice as likely to smoke throughout pregnancy.