Suffolk: Hundreds of expectant mums smoked throughout their pregnancy, new Department of Health figures reveal

SUFFOLK: Hundreds of expectant mothers smoked throughout their pregnancies up to the point of delivery last year.

According to the Department of Health, 940 pregnant women in Suffolk failed to give up cigarettes in the financial year 2010-2011.

This means 14.4 per cent of all babies born during this time period in county may have been affected by the side effects of smoking during pregnancy.

These include lower birth weight and premature birth.

In addition, continuing to smoke while pregnant increases the risk of miscarriage and stillbirth.

The proportion of smoking expectant mothers in Suffolk is slightly above the national average in England which is 13.5 per cent.

However, women smoking up to the point of delivery from 2010-2011 in the county is below Department of Health statistics from the previous year.

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These revealed 947 women did not give up smoking while pregnant.

Live Well Suffolk is an NHS commissioned service which helps people – including expectant mothers – give up smoking.

Director Tim Roberts believes there are several reasons for failing to give up cigarettes while pregnant.

“Some pregnant women still don’t understand how dangerous it is to smoke during pregnancy,” he said.

“Secondly, in some communities, smoking is normal behaviour. If your mother smoked during her pregnancy and then your sister smoked during her’s, then you are more likely to think you will be fine to smoke too.

“The dangers tend to be talked down if your network of friends and family all smoke.”

He added: “Lastly, nicotine is extremely addictive.”

Beliefs of certain sections of society mean it is even being suggested smoking while pregnant will make labour easier.

Mr Roberts said: “There is an urban myth in some communities lower birth weight will make pregnancy and childbirth less painful.”

Expectant mothers being referred to Live Well Suffolk are from a range of demographics. However, Mr Roberts said smoking during pregnancy is more commonly associated with “deprived” areas in parts of Ipswich, Haverhill and Felixstowe.

Daniel Chapelle, health improvement manager of NHS Suffolk Primary Care Trust, agreed public attitudes towards smoking mothers must change.

“These women need encouragement to stop, not judgement,” he said. “If they feel they are being stigmatised they may not seek help.”

n What is your view of this story? Did you smoke while you were pregnant? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail