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Don't smoke during pregnancy

Pregnant smokers encouraged to quit to help protect their baby’s health

Women who smoke during pregnancy are being urged to quit to help reduce the risk of seriously affecting the health of their baby. In Norfolk, the number of women who smoke whilst pregnant is currently the highest in the East of England (13.5% in 2017/18*) so Norfolk County Council Public Health is aiming to raise awareness of the risks.

Smoking in pregnancy is harmful for both the mother and the unborn child. Carbon monoxide enters the mother’s blood, together with around 4,000 other cigarette chemicals, and limits the oxygen that reaches the baby. Research has shown there are several poor birth outcomes associated with smoking during pregnancy including an increased risk of the baby being born prematurely, being born too small or even dying before birth.

Cllr Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, Public Health and Prevention said: “We have produced an animated video about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy. It’s designed to highlight the positives of stopping smoking rather than trying to scare mothers-to-be into quitting.

“This video has been produced with the support of several of our partners, including the NHS and the University of East Anglia. We are all working closely together to reduce the rate of smoking during pregnancy in the county.”

All midwives carry out carbon monoxide tests on pregnant women and if the levels indicate they have been exposed to smoke they are offered an appointment with Smoke-free Norfolk, the stop-smoking service commissioned by Public Health.

Stopping smoking improves the health of the mother and baby immediately. The baby is less likely to be born premature and face the additional breathing, feeding and health complications that are linked with being premature. The baby is also less likely to be born underweight - babies of women who smoke are, on average, 200g (about 8oz) lighter than other babies, meaning they are more prone to infection.

Dr Louise Smith, Director of Public Health for Norfolk, said: “Although Norfolk has seen an increase in the rate from the previous year, it’s broadly in line with the increase seen across the East of England, however, this rate is much higher than we would like it to be.

“It’s still worth stopping even if you’ve smoked at the start of your pregnancy. If you quit by the 15th week of your pregnancy, the risk of your baby being born too early or having a low birth weight is the same as that of a non-smoker.

“We’re also encouraging partners and family members of pregnant women to stop smoking as carbon monoxide from secondhand smoke is just as dangerous for the baby. If a smoker in your household quits smoking, the benefits to you and your baby are huge.”

When Emma discovered she was pregnant, Smoke-free Norfolk helped her to quit for good: “I’d quit smoking before and started again a few times but when I found out I was pregnant I realised quitting was something I had to do as I know it’s not good for the baby. It’s a good incentive as you’re not just quitting for you, you’re quitting for the baby as well.

“I was referred to the stop smoking service by my midwife and they gave me a call and got me started on using patches. I’d used them before so I knew they were likely to work but I was also told there are lots of other alternatives available if they didn’t.

“All the way through I had so much support from my stop-smoking advisor to see how I was getting on and keep me on track. I’m not on patches anymore but I’m still not smoking and I feel so much better for it.

“If you’re thinking about quitting but are not sure how to go about it, get in touch with the stop smoking service as they know all the steps to take and will support you all the way.”

Having a baby is a great reason to give up smoking. If you’re pregnant and struggling to quit smoking, talk to your midwife or contact Norfolk’s specialist stop smoking service. Advisors will work with you to find what works best for you; offering everything from intensive support, group sessions, one-to-one appointments, and drop-in sessions, all delivered in locations around the county.

Contact Norfolk’s stop-smoking service at where you can also watch the video to find out why it is best to stop smoking during pregnancy.

* Source: Calculated by PHE from the NHS Digital return on Smoking Status At Time of delivery (SATOD)

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Norfolk County Council