10.8% of pregnant women in England are known smokers at time of delivery

The latest NHS Digital statistics on smoking show that in 2017-18 10.8% of pregnant women were known to be smokers at the time of delivery.

Pregnancy news, 05/07/2018

The number of pregnant women known to be smoking throughout pregnancy, all the way up to delivery, remains at just over 10% for the second year in a row.

The UK government’s national ambition is to reduce the smoking in pregnancy rate to less than 6% by 2022. So far, only 35 trusts in England are meeting this ambition.

NHS Digital’s report shows that the number of adult smokers in England fell by roughly 1.6 million between 2011 and 2017. However, the number of pregnant smokers has not followed the same trend.

‘We have made real progress in the past in helping women to have smoke-free pregnancies and we must be ambitious about what can be achieved in the future to protect thousands of families from entirely preventable and heartbreaking outcomes.’Francine Bates, co-chair of the SPCG and chief executive of The Lullaby Trust

Tommy’s is a member of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group (SPCG), who are asking for ‘bold’ action from the government in response to these new figures. They believe more needs to be done to help women quit smoking, and have made some suggestions about how the government can do it.

Some recommendations include:

  • clearer referral paths for smoking cessation across the country
  • reduce secondhand smoking and improve quitting success through increased support for partners and other members of the household who smoke
  • targeted support in the areas with the highest smoking rates
  • increase the use of alternative sources of nicotine as a method for quitting
  • more training for midwives and other maternity healthcare professionals.

‘Some midwives have access to excellent training, the equipment they need and have high-quality stop smoking services available for the women they support. Investment is needed to ensure that this is universal.’ Gill Walton, CEO of the Royal College of Midwives (RCM)

Risks of smoking in pregnancy

Smoking increases the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and stillbirth.

Some people believe that giving up smoking will cause stress, which will harm the unborn baby more than continuing to smoke. This is not true. The damage caused by smoking is greater than the effects of stress from quitting.

It is also thought that being in the womb protects a baby from the effects of cigarette smoke. However, the poisons move through the placenta and into the baby’s bloodstream. This means the baby gets less oxygen, which could harm their growth.

Support to stop smoking in pregnancy

There is support available online and by phone to help with smoking cessation

NHS Smokefree

This website offers advice, information and support, along with a free Quit Kit and other resources. They also have a free Smokefree helpline, 0300 123 1044.


QUIT is a charity that has professional advisers, tips, tools and ideas to help quit smoking. Their free helpline is 0800 00 22 00.

SmokeFree Baby

SmokeFree Baby is a free smartphone app (iOS and Android), developed by a team of experts at University College London. It helps pregnant women give up smoking, or substantially reduce the number of cigarettes they are using.

Read more about smoking and pregnancy

More about these NHS findings

More on smoking and pregnancy

More pregnancy news and blogs

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Please note that these comments are monitored but not answered by Tommy’s. Please call your GP or maternity unit if you have concerns about your health or your baby’s health.

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