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Number of pregnant smokers remains low in England

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10.5% of English pregnant women smoked in 2016-17 10.5% of pregnant women in England smoked in 2016-17

The number of pregnant women smoking at the time of delivery in England has come in below NHS targets for the second year running, according to figures from NHS Digital.

Although the national average of 10.5% for the period covering April 2016 to March 2017 is below the national aspiration of 11%, some areas, especially in the north of the country, still have very high levels of smoking in pregnancy.

The CCGs with the highest proportion of smokers were NHS Blackpool (28.1%), NHS Hull (22.9%) and NHS North East Lincolnshire (22.3%) which have levels ten-times that of the CCGs with the lowest proportion.

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Conversely, the best performers were all found in London, including NHS West London (2.3%), NHS Richmond (2.5%) and NHS Hammersmith and Fulham (2.7%).

Sarah Fox, professional policy advisor at the Royal College of Midwives, said: ‘There remains a lot of regional variation in these figures and some areas still have very high levels of smoking in pregnancy. It is important that these areas are targeted to bring these levels down.

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‘Smoking is one of the main contributors to stillbirths and if we can reduce the numbers smoking in pregnancy even further we can make a contribution to reducing stillbirth rates.’

Ms Fox said she believes the high levels of smoking during pregnancy in some pockets of England are due to cuts in public health initiatives including smoking cessation services.

‘We need to see these reversed if we are to bring the rates down further and tackle those pockets where levels are still alarmingly high,’ she said. ‘Midwives are very influential in highlighting the health benefits of giving up smoking to women in pregnancy and of staying smoke free.

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‘Where there is continuity of high quality of midwifery support the health of mothers and babies will benefit. This includes using strategies such as carbon monoxide testing in collaboration with the woman.’

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