ONE in five mums-to-be in Hartlepool are causing potential damage to their unborn babies by smoking while pregnant.
Figures show that 21.7 per cent of town women were hooked to cigarettes at the time of delivering their newborns – which is almost double the country-wide average of 12.7 per cent.
The shocking statistics, collated by North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Trust and Hartlepool Borough Council from 2012 to 2013, also show that Hartlepool fares worse than Stockton in the table, where 17.7 per cent of women were smoking at the time of delivery.
North-East numbers of 19.7 per cent of women smoking when their babies were born, is also lower than Hartlepool’s figures.
News of the shocking figures come just days after the Mail revealed that 200 people are expected to die from smoking in the town this year.
The harmful habit has forced health chiefs to come up with a new strategy for informing mums about the dangers of cigarette smoke to the foetus.
Specially-trained midwives working in and around the Hartlepool area have recently been using an interactive doll, accompanied by an iPad, to show pregnant women the shocking effects.
Women are offered the chance to see it at their dating scan in hospital, and are then offered home visits and support to help them kick the habit.
Carole Johnson, head of health improvement at Hartlepool Borough Council, said: “We have a team of midwives who have had specific training to deal with the women who think they don’t want to stop smoking, to make sure that they are fully aware of all the facts relating to smoking in pregnancy, and so there is no doubt in women’s minds that it does cause damage to the foetus.
“The midwives have a doll and they can hook it up to a computer and it can simulate what happens to the foetus when the woman smokes.”
She added: “It’s hard-hitting but it’s an important message that the professionals have to get across. Their training means they deliver it in a sensitive way, but at the same time women have to see exactly what happens when they smoke, and the implications.
“Women are shocked by it because they don’t realise that they are starving their baby of oxygen every time they have a cigarette until it is made absolutely clear to them.
“If a woman still chooses to smoke afterwards then that’s her choice.”
Significantly reduce the amount of oxygen the baby is getting;
Can damage the placenta which feeds the baby;
Can cause miscarriage;
Causes up to 2,200 premature births every year;
Increase chance that babies can be dangerously underweight;
Increases the risk of a child developing asthma, attention deficit disorder, learning difficulties, obesity and diabetes.
The latest Hartlepool figures show a slight fall on the previous year’s figures released by public Health England, when 22.7 per cent of women smoked while pregnant from 2011 to 2012.
But even then, the numbers were still substantially higher than the England average which stood at 13.3 per cent.
For information about quitting smoking call (01642) 383819 or visit www.nth.nhs.uk/stopsmoking