ASH Wales welcomes a report by Cardiff University highlighting how the stigma of smoking in pregnancy can stop women from getting the help they need to quit.
Currently 16% of women in Wales continue to smoke through their pregnancy so, as the report highlights, there is a strong need for smoking cessation services that engage pregnant smokers rather than isolating them.
Indeed, interviews ASH Wales has carried with health professionals working alongside pregnant smokers reinforces the findings that the stigma attached to smoking in pregnancy prevents many women from engaging with smoking cessation services.
However, while it is important to acknowledge the barriers to women seeking help, ASH Wales is concerned that the report portrays smoking as a lifestyle choice and coping strategy for pregnant women rather than an addiction.
The report describes pregnancy as a challenge to women’s ‘independent choices’, including smoking. Women do not smoke through pregnancy by choice, they do so because they are physically addicted to nicotine – an addiction which can have devastating consequences in pregnancy, ranging from premature birth to miscarriage, stillbirth or sudden infant death.
The idea that pregnant women smoke through choice is contributing to the stigma and sense of shame these women face. It is crucially important to acknowledge that this is a physical addiction not a choice and must be treated as such by women’s families, loved ones and the health professionals that work with them.
ASH Wales is working with health boards across Wales to find out the best ways of engaging with pregnant smokers and continues to help raise awareness of the impact of nicotine addiction on unborn babies. To find out more click here