More pregnant women drinking and smoking

ONE in eight women in the East of England drank more than the recommended amount of alcohol while pregnant, new research has found.A total of 11.9% of the mums-to-be surveyed in the region drank in excess of one to two units of alcohol per week - the highest level in the UK.

ONE in eight women in the East of England drank more than the recommended amount of alcohol while pregnant, new research has found.

A total of 11.9% of the mums-to-be surveyed in the region drank in excess of one to two units of alcohol per week - the highest level in the UK.

The figure is far higher than the national average of 4.7%, prompting health bosses to warn of the dangers.

The study of 1,100 expecting women also showed that 12% in the East continued to smoke during pregnancy, compared to the UK average of 8.5%.


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But last night, the stop smoking services in Suffolk and Essex said their statistics showed the true figure was around 16%.

Hilary Andrews, Suffolk Stop Smoking Service co-ordinator, said a survey in 2005 showed a third of women in the UK smoked during or immediately before pregnancy.

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She said in Suffolk they believe the figure is 16%, adding that it supported 72 pregnant women to quit smoking last year.

“We need to look at the survey in more detail as it is coming up with very low figures for smoking in pregnancy compared to what we know nationally and locally,” she said.

A spokesman for Colchester Primary Care Trust (PCT) said it was very concerned many women may still not be aware of the dangers of smoking and drinking alcohol while pregnant.

“It is not clear how much alcohol a pregnant woman can have before it damages her baby, so the best advice is to play it safe and not to drink at all,” he said.

“What is known is that regular alcohol consumption during pregnancy can cause Foetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS), which can cause growth, behavioural and other problems in babies and young children.

“Latest figures show 16% of women in the Colchester area continue to smoke during their pregnancy, which is very concerning.

“Smoking during pregnancy can cause serious complications, not least increasing the chances of cot death or a baby being still born.

“Children whose mothers smoked during pregnancy are also more susceptible to low birth-weight which increases the likelihood of some illnesses occurring in the future.

“We support all mothers-to-be to make them aware of the dangers they face if they drink and smoke during pregnancy and we encourage them to make to best choices for themselves and their unborn baby.”

The latest survey, conducted by Tommy's, the baby charity, and Johnson's Baby, also identified a number of concerns among pregnant mums-to-be.

Many women said they felt unsure about whether they were eating the right things, getting enough sleep, and keeping relaxed during pregnancy, it showed.

Help to stop smoking is available from the Colchester and Tendring NHS Stop Smoking Support Service on 0800 7312656 or the Suffolk Stop Smoking Service on 0800 085 6037.

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