More than 61,399 mothers-to-be, more than one in ten of all pregnant women, were still smoking at the time they gave birth in 2018, figures released by NHS Digital have shown.
Although the number of women smoking while pregnant has fallen by nearly a third in the past decade from 14.6% of all pregnancies in 2008/9 to 10.6% in 2018/19, the rate of decrease has slowed in recent years.
The data shows Blackpool, Corby, Durham and Mansfield are among a number of areas where more than one in five mums-to-be is a smoker at the time of labour; while expectant mothers in the London region are least likely to be smokers, with fewer than one in 20.
‘Having a baby in this country is now safer than ever but smoking while carrying a baby puts both parent and child at avoidable and potentially deadly risk,’ said Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, chief midwifery officer for England.
‘No woman should have to experience the heartbreak of stillbirth, and quitting smoking is absolutely vital for a healthy mum and a healthy baby. The NHS Long Term Plan sets out a programme of measures including stop smoking classes for all pregnant women, which will make giving birth even safer, and build on progress in NHS care which has helped reduce stillbirths by 20%.’
The government has set a national ambition to reduce the number of women smoking at the time of delivery to less than 6% of all pregnancies by 2022. Two-thirds of areas in London achieved this target with parts of the capital seeing rates of between 1% and 3%.
‘It is very concerning that the number of smokers in pregnancy is not falling,’ said Clare Livingstone, Professional Policy Advisor at the Royal College of Midwives.
‘The devastating effects of smoking in pregnancy are well documented, particularly the link between smoking in pregnancy and stillbirths. ‘A concerted effort is need to target areas where smoking levels remain high and this means more investment in specialist stop smoking services to support women to quit.’