One in six women in Hartlepool are still smoking at the time they give birth – more than twice the national average.
The figure is the third highest in the North East.
Tackling smoking in pregnancy is one of our top priorities and it is all about giving our children the best start in life.Carole Johnson, head of health improvement at Hartlepool Borough Council
The latest data released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre for the period of April 2014 to March this year shows that 18.1% of the mums in the Hartlepool and Stockton-on-Tees area were smoking while pregnant, compared with the English average of 11.4%.
During this time 3,288 women fell pregnant, and of those 596 continued to smoke.
However, there has been a decrease in the number smoking when compared with the previous financial year’s 19.3%.
Carole Johnson, head of health improvement at Hartlepool Borough Council, has said the issue is one of the local authority’s top priorities.
She said: “Tackling smoking in pregnancy is one of our top priorities and it is all about giving our children the best start in life.
“Good progress is being made – the 2009/10 figure was 22.1% across the Hartlepool and Stockton Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) area and today this is 18.1% – but more still needs to be done to bring us in line with the figure for England as a whole of 11.4%.
“Staff from Hartlepool council, working alongside colleagues from Stockton council, have developed an annual action plan which is delivered through a full range of partners involved in helping pregnant women and their families to quit smoking.
“Smoking cessation support is available through the trust’s midwives, midwifery assistants, the various drop-in clinics run around the town by the Stop Smoking Service or a mixture of both.”
Lisa Surtees, acting director of anti-smoking group Fresh, is hoping more mums will take notice of the Babyclear programme, which helps midwives in the region’s maternity units explain the dangers of smoking.
She said: “Babyclear is a national first to embed best practice in every maternity unit across a whole region. Midwives are the best placed health professionals to deliver really important health information to pregnant women across a whole range of topics. They can best fully explain how smoking is one of the biggest risks and the extra care and attention a prematurely born, sick baby needs.”
South Tyneside had the highest number of expectant mums smoking at 25.9%, this is followed by Sunderland which stands at 19.4%.
Pregnant women can seek help by contacting the Stop Smoking Service on (01642) 383819.
The dangers to children
Smoking in pregnancy is harmful to both a mother and their baby.
There is an increased risk of maternal death, miscarriage and stillbirth.
Every cigarette smoked contains more than 4,000 chemicals. Smoking can therefore restrict the essential oxygen supply to a baby, so its heart has to beat harder every time a mum smokes.
But if an expectant mum quits the tobacco then their baby is less likely to be born underweight: babies of women who smoke are, on average, 200g (about 8oz) lighter and they’re also less likely to be premature.
Plus they will also reduce the risk of cot death, also called sudden infant death syndrome.
And quitting will also benefit children later in life as those who are born to parents who smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other more serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.