Poll: Shocking figures show nearly 1 in 6 pregnant women in Suffolk and Essex still smoking

MORE than one in seven expectant mothers smoke through their pregnancy, shocking new figures have revealed.

Data released by the NHS found the number of pregnant women in Suffolk who smoke is higher than the national average.

The figures shows that 13.6% of Suffolk mums admit to smoking right up until delivery.

In North Essex the number rises to 17%.

Smoking through pregnancy can cause significant harm to the baby, including an increased risk of miscarriage.

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There is risk the baby may be born underweight and be treated at special care baby units. There is also an increase in the probability of birth defects such as clef palate and glue ear. Cot death is also a risk.

Lynda Bradford, head of health improvements in public health at NHS Suffolk, said the reasons preventing mothers from quitting was complicated.

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She said: “Every woman who finds out they are pregnant will want to stop.

“Women will always want to be the best mother they can be, but the barriers preventing them succeeding are complex.

“People who stop smoking will fail about four or six times before they actually succeed so the best advice is to try to stop smoking before you actually fall pregnant. It can be quite overwhelming when you do get pregnant. You need to give up a fair amount, like alcohol and certain foods. Smoking is just one of these.”

She highlighted how the numbers of expectant mothers who smoke had fallen over the last three years. She said this was down to greater awareness of the risks involved, the social stigma of smoking while pregnant and the cost.

The problem is especially prevalent in less affluent areas of Suffolk, including Waveney.

It is also greater in teenage mothers.

MP Dan Poulter said the drop in numbers was welcoming, but said more needed to be done to address the level of teenage mothers who still smoke.

Dr Poulter, MP for North Ipswich and Central Suffolk, said: “There is no doubt that smoking in pregnancy is very dangerous for the mother and very dangerous for the baby.

“I welcome that there has been a fall in the number of mothers smoking, but to get a feel on whether this is a long term trend we need to look at the figures over a period of ten years. What is worrying is the increase in the number of young girls who are smoking. This needs to be addressed.”

Helen Kirrane, campaigns and policy manager at Bliss the special care baby charity, said it was “worrying” that one in ten women smoke during pregnancy.

“Bliss wholeheartedly recommends that pregnant women should not smoke, as smoking during pregnancy is one reason babies can be born early or underweight.” She added: “It is vital that they receive all the information and support they need to help ensure they have a healthy pregnancy. It is important to remember that around 80,000 babies are born in the UK each year needing specialist hospital care and we need to ensure these babies receive the very best care.”

EXPECTANT mother Chelsea Cannon said she found it easy to quit after she became aware of the risks to her baby.

The 17-year-old from Colchester, whose baby is due on Christmas Eve, said: “Without sounding nasty, I think it is quite selfish to carry on smoking when you are pregnant.

“I think it was the fact that my unborn baby boy did not choose to smoke which gave me the motivation.”

Chelsea was given help and support to quit by Sarah Leach from ACE (Anglian Community Enterprise) after she was referred by her midwife.

Chelsea added: “Sarah was lovely and explained how smoking can affect my baby. I didn’t really realise the risks involved.

“I haven’t smoked for two or three months now, and I don’t intent on starting again once the baby is here.”

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