Helping mums to be quit smoking

Date published: 03 July 2018

Greater Manchester’s approach to supporting mums-to-be to quit smoking has been praised as ‘unique in the UK’ in a national report published by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group.

This comes as national figures show no significant improvement in the number of women smoking during pregnancy.

The Greater Manchester Smokefree Pregnancy initiative, implemented from March 2018, is aimed at significantly reducing the number of women experiencing the tragedies of stillbirth, cot-death, miscarriage and preterm delivery as well as an elevated risk of stroke and heart disease.

The Greater Manchester initiative ensures that every pregnant woman undergoes a simple non-invasive test for how much carbon monoxide is in their body. Carbon Monoxide is poisonous gas in cigarette smoke which reduces the ability of red blood cells to carry oxygen. Women with potentially harmfully results are referred to a specialist adviser to help them begin their quit attempt.

In addition, an incentive scheme, as recommended by the national Pregnancy Challenge Group report, will engage women to take part. The incentive scheme has run very successfully in the North West previously, achieving unprecedented outcomes including saving hundreds of babies’ lives and reducing the massive health risks of pre-term births caused by smoking.

The harms of smoking to pregnant women are not only acute and life-threatening, but have implications that progress beyond pregnancy. Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke in pregnancy harms babies. Supporting mums, partners and wider family members to quit smoking or take their smoking outside away from pregnant women will help deliver healthy babies.

In addition to the distress caused to new parents from smoking-related harms, the additional cost of care for babies born below healthy weight across Greater Manchester is approximately £5 million. Preventative Smokefree Pregnancy work is a fraction of that cost.

The proportion of women who smoke while pregnant is much higher in many parts of Greater Manchester than the England average. Smoking rates range from 6.9% to 18% in Greater Manchester, with the England average being 10.6%. Greater Manchester aims to reduce that to 6% or less across all communities by 2021 with an ambition that all babies are born smokefree over the next ten years.

Sarah Price, Director of Population Health for Greater Manchester, said: “The figures show how vital our work is in supporting women to quit smoking for pregnancy and beyond. Our vision is for every baby in Greater Manchester to be born smokefree and grow up in a smokefree home and family. Our Smokefree Pregnancy programme will help us deliver this by supporting every woman, their partner and families to quit smoking.”

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