Hertfordshire County Council intensifies support to help pregnant women quit smoking

Published: 14 Nov 2019

Hertfordshire County Council is launching a new ‘Saving Babies Lives’ initiative to increase the number of pregnant women and their families who get professional help and support to stop smoking in Hertfordshire.

Stopping smoking before or during pregnancy improves the health of both mother and baby and reduces the risk of harm caused by tobacco.

Although the number of pregnant smokers is lower in Hertfordshire (5.8 per cent) than the national average (10.8 percent), there are still a significant number of women who do not access the help and support they need to quit.

In 2018/19, over 700 women smoked through their pregnancy, meaning their babies were at risk of harm from smoking. These risks include increased likelihood of premature birth, birth deformities and stillbirth.

To reduce the number, we are taking a new approach to the support we provide, working closely with maternity services to deliver a raft of measures.

These include:

• training midwives on smoking cessation to national standards
• specialist pregnancy stop-smoking advisors to work intensively with pregnant smokers in the community
• advice and access to medicines which help to make quitting easier
• routine carbon monoxide breath tests at the time a pregnant woman first sees her midwife and at other points during her pregnancy
• resources for midwives to enable women and their partners to understand the risks of smoking in pregnancy and the help that is available to support them
• a pilot incentive scheme to test the use of financial incentives to support pregnant women to give up smoking.

Research shows that pregnant women metabolise nicotine approximately 60 per cent faster than other smokers. This means that smoking is more addictive; that cravings and withdrawal symptoms are stronger, and the intensity of support needs to be increased as it can be extremely difficult to give up despite wanting to.

Pregnant women who smoke are also more likely to have a partner, friends and a family who smoke and therefore do not have the support of a smoke-free network.

Director of Public Health, Jim McManus, said: “The consequences of smoking in pregnancy can be devastating to the family, and can impact on the health of an individual throughout infancy, childhood and as an adult.

“We understand how difficult stopping smoking can be; our role is to offer non-judgemental help and support. Our Saving Babies Lives initiative is part of our ongoing commitment to ensure that every child in Hertfordshire has the best start in life.

“Helping pregnant women to give up smoking is one of the most important things we can do to reduce the risk of harm and improve the health of babies for now and in the future."

As well as the measures to provide good quality support to pregnant women and their families who smoke, we are keen to test the use of financial incentives to support pregnant smokers in overcoming tobacco addiction. This is well supported by the evidence and by Public Health and NHS colleagues nationally and locally.

Mr McManus added: “The use of financial incentives has a strong evidence-base and has been shown to significantly increase quit rates and abstinence from smoking, so we have a responsibility to explore this as an option.”

For support to give up smoking, simply text SMOKEFREE to 80818, call 0800 3893998 or visit: www.hertfordshire.gov.uk/stopsmoking