New data released yesterday by Edinburgh University shows the positive impact of the public smoking ban with an 8% drop in both stillbirth and neonatal death rates between 2007 and 2011. That’s an estimated 1500 lives which have been saved.
Researchers also found fewer babies were born with a low birth weight in this five-year period and there was a reduction in the number of children admitted to hospital with asthma attacks or respiratory infections.
It’s well established that smoking during pregnancy is the leading cause of stillbirth, but the equally harmful effects of second-hand smoke are not always fully appreciated. We wrongly assume that it’s only when we’re in close proximity to someone smoking that we’re exposed to toxic chemicals, when actually 80% of second-hand smoke is invisible and doesn’t smell.
Toxins in smoke can damage the placenta
These toxins can damage the placenta and increase the risk of serious problems like placental abruption. Nicotine and carbon monoxide also reduce the amount of oxygen and nutrients the baby receives, impairing their growth and development. By depriving the baby of oxygen, the baby’s heart is also forced to work harder.
Whilst the ban has succeeded in reducing women’s exposure to second-hand smoke in restaurants, pubs and so forth we should also recognise its limitations. Pregnant women can still be exposed to second-hand smoke in the home and new legislation, which comes into effect in October, also feels like a missed opportunity. Whilst it will prohibit smoking in vehicles where anyone under the age of 18 is present, the ban will not be extended to cover pregnant women.
Let’s also not forget the importance of smoking cessation services in helping individuals to actually quit this habit. It’s estimated that 12% of women continue to smoke in pregnancy.
One mum shares her experience of smoking during pregnancy and why she urges other mothers to try and quit.
Our midwife Sophie explains why mums-to-be suffering from addiction should feel comfortable asking their midwives for help.
Smoking 'light' cigarettes is not better for the baby's health. Read about this and 6 more common myths about smoking in pregnancy.