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Sharp fall in numbers of pregnant smokers after new NHS drive

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The number of pregnant smokers in the UK is now at The number of pregnant smokers in the UK is now at a record low

Almost 15,000 pregnant women in England managed to quit smoking over the last three years, new analysis shows today.

Latest figures show that the smoking rate for pregnant women at the time of birth fell to 9.1% in 2021-22, the lowest annual rate on record, and down from 10.6% prior to the NHS beginning to roll out its Long Term Plan in 2019. Over the three years since March 2019, 14,758 fewer pregnant women were smokers at the time of birth than there would have been if that rate had stayed the same.

Following the rollout of the Saving Babies Lives Care Bundle, all pregnant women are offered electronic checks to test their exposure to carbon monoxide, which is a harmful chemical present in cigarettes.

‘NHS maternity staff across England are working tirelessly to help mothers to give up smoking ensuring their babies get the very best start in life,’ said Professor Jacqueline Dunkley-Bent, Chief Midwifery Officer for England.

‘Smoking can have devastating health implications for a mum and her baby, including increasing the risks of going into labour early, as well as an increased chance of miscarriage and stillbirth. This is why the support which thousands of mothers have already taken up to become smoke free is so vitally important.’

Smoking in pregnancy carries serious health risks. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the placenta and baby, which can lead to women going into labour early as well as increasing the chance of miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death.

The NHS has recently committed to an additional £127 million for maternity services across England over the next year, to help ensure services are providing safer and more personalised care for women and their babies.

The NHS is accelerating action to reduce stillbirth by half, maternal mortality, neonatal mortality and serious brain injury by 2025.

‘Pregnant smokers don’t want to harm their babies, but smoking is an addiction, usually started in childhood, and once started very difficult to quit,’ said Deborah Arnott, chief executive of Action on Smoking and Health.

‘Getting help and support can triple smokers’ chances of quitting successfully. The NHS stepping up to provide mums to be with the support they need is a vital step towards improving the health and wellbeing not just of babies, but their families too.’

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