In England, the percentage of women recorded as smokers at the time of delivery during 2019/20 was 10.4% (about 59,066 women), according to recent NHS Digital statistics.
This is slightly less than last year. In 2018/19, 10.6% of women (about 61,399) were known to be smoking at the end of their pregnancy.
The 2019/20 annual smoking at time of delivery data for England also revealed big differences between areas of the country. For example, only 2.1% of women are smoking at the time of delivering their baby in NHS West London, but the figure is higher in NHS Blackpool at 23.1%. This is a similar pattern to previous years.
The government has set a target to reduce rates of smoking throughout pregnancy to 6%. According to these statistics, only 40 out of 190 trusts are meeting this target.
How does smoking harm a baby during pregnancy?
Research has shown that smoking while you are pregnant can bring a higher risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth. It can also affect your child as they grow up, increasing their risk of ear infections, asthma and behavioural problems.
Quitting is one of the best things you can do to protect your baby’s health during pregnancy and it’s never too late to quit. Every extra day your baby develops in the womb without the effects of cigarettes will make a big difference to your health in pregnancy and beyond.
Secondhand smoke is also harmful, so it’s not all up to you. If you live with a smoker, they should learn about the effects of secondhand smoke and try their best to quit, too.
No shame in asking for help
Smoking is a powerful addiction, which is why so many people, including pregnant women, find it difficult to quit. Many pregnant women don’t ask for the help they need because they are afraid of what people will think or say about their habit. This is completely understandable. If this applies to you, try to remember that by asking for help you are doing the best thing for your baby. Nobody can judge you for that.
The people who can support you – your midwife, doctor, GP, etc – are there to help you. You should feel able to talk about all aspects of your pregnancy openly and honestly with your healthcare professionals. They are there to give you the support you need to address any problems and improve your health without judgement.
Also, remember that any information you share with your healthcare professional is confidential. They are not allowed to discuss what you tell them with anyone else.
Lots of support available
If you don’t want to (or are unable to) talk to someone face to face, there is plenty of friendly, professional support available online, by phone and even on smartphone apps to help you stop smoking.
Remember, the earlier you give up smoking in pregnancy, the better. But quitting at any stage will benefit both you and your baby, so don't give up on giving up.
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