ASH Wales supports calls by the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) to tackle the high rates of smoking among pregnant women in Wales.
At the launch of the Welsh edition of the RCM’s State of Maternity Services Report, the RCM cited the fact that one in five pregnant women smoked as a ‘real concern’.
It is estimated that 11,864 unborn babies in Wales are exposed to harm from tobacco each year and 16% of all pregnant women in Wales smoke throughout their pregnancy – the highest of all UK nations.
Suzanne Cass, CEO of ASH Wales, said:
“We echo the RCM’s concerns about the high levels of women in Wales who smoke through their pregnancies and the toll this takes on the health of unborn babies.
“Smoking is a highly addictive habit which can be difficult to break, never is this more apparent than in the number of women we see still smoking throughout their pregnancy.
“Being addicted to smoking and pregnant is not a position that any would-be parent would want to put themselves through. We need to work hard to explore every option to help these women quit this deadly addiction. Helping the pregnant women and their family find the right support is a crucial step along that quit smoking journey.”
Helen Rogers, Director for Wales at the Royal College of Midwives, said:
“Smoking in pregnancy is one of the major factors in the UK’s relatively high stillbirth rates compared to many other western nations. If we can reduce the numbers smoking in pregnancy it will be a significant step towards reducing stillbirths.
“The statistics outlined in our Wales maternity report published today are a real concern. One in five pregnant women in Wales are recorded as smokers and we need to address this issue as a matter of urgency. There are also quite dramatic differences in smoking rates between the different areas across Wales. We need to support these women to reduce or ideally stop smoking in pregnancy and support them to remain non-smokers afterwards.”
Risks of smoking in pregnancy
Smoking while pregnant puts both mother and baby at risk of significant harm to their health. Smoking doubles the chances of the baby being stillborn or with a heart defect and second-hand smoke can also have a devastating effect on the health of the child – increasing the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 45%.
When a cigarette is smoked over 4,000 chemicals go into the lungs and then into the bloodstream. When pregnant that blood flows into the placenta and umbilical cord and directly into the baby’s body.
The toxic cocktail of chemicals work together to restrict the baby’s oxygen supply. They narrow blood vessels throughout the body, choking the oxygen supply, including the ones in the umbilical cord. Meanwhile the red blood cells that carry oxygen pick up molecules of carbon monoxide reducing oxygen levels.
Smoking can result in a low birth weight, a small baby who doesn’t grow healthily has an increased chance of being stillborn. Smoking also increases the likelihood of a baby being born prematurely, and that he or she will have health and development problems in childhood and later life.
If you are expecting a baby, the best people to speak to for support are your midwife, health visitor, GP or local pharmacy, who are all equipped with knowledge to help and can offer great support, plus advice about nicotine replacement therapy.
Help Me Quit from NHS Wales offers help online and excellent services such as telephone support or one-to-one or group meetings. Find more information at www.helpmequit.wales or call 0800 085 2219 or or text HMQ to 80818.
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