Friday, 15 December 2017

Rise in number of pregnant women smoking heavily

Smoker

The risk of babies being born earlier or at a lower birth weight has not fallen in one of the country’s main maternity hospitals because so many pregnant women are continuing to smoke heavily, a new study reveals.

The risk of babies being born earlier or at a lower birth weight has not fallen in one of the country’s main maternity hospitals because so many pregnant women are continuing to smoke heavily, a new study reveals.

A study of births at the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin between 2009 and 2013 showed rates of moderate to heavy smokers went up from 3.9pc to 6.9pc.

This trend emerged as the overall smoking rates among the expectant mothers fell from 16.6pc to 12.6pc, the research led by Dr Fionán Donohoe revealed.

The researchers found that while smoking rates in pregnancy decreased overall, the increase in the percentage of women reporting moderate to heavy smoking meant the “risk of preterm delivery and lower birth weight has not been reduced”.

It is well established that expectant mothers who smoke are exposing their baby to harmful gases such a carbon monoxide and other damaging chemicals.

Smoking during pregnancy leads to greater risk of a range of complications including premature birth and the baby being born underweight.

The women who were classed as moderate to heavy smokers were smoking 10 or more cigarettes a day while they were pregnant.

The researchers, who included Prof Michael Turner, obstetrician in the Coombe, found that the pregnant women who were moderate to heavy smokers delivered smaller babies and they were also more likely to give birth early.

The Coombe delivers around 8,000 babies a year and has mothers from a cross section of backgrounds, including lower socio-economic groups.

The study found that smokers were less likely to undergo induction of labour than non-smokers and were also less likely to have a planned caesarean section.

The study follows a separate audit of services to help pregnant women stop smoking across the country’s 19 maternity units.

It found there were wide variations in the supports available and overall they were inadequate compared to national and international recommendations.

Three of the 19 units did not quiz expectant mothers on their first hospital visit if they wanted to quit smoking during their pregnancy.

Just five said they routinely repeatedly asked a mother about smoking as the pregnancy progressed.

The authors, led by the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction and the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin, said the collection of information on whether the woman was smoking, and cessation advice, was often explored only at the first antenatal visit.

They stressed that improved services should be prioritised because if a woman stops smoking in the first half of pregnancy there is a reduced risk of complications.

Prof Turner said yesterday that more supports are needed to help women who are heavy smokers to quit.

“They should be identified at their first ante-natal visit and offered an appointment for smoking cessation therapy,” he added.

This was backed by anti-smoking campaigner Dr Luke Clancy, who said the evidence was that heavier smokers had more difficulty giving up.

Smoking rates among pregnant mothers attending the Coombe were found to be at 10.9pc in 2015.

Higher smoking rates are associated with younger women, those with children already, unemployment, an unplanned pregnancy as well as a history of psychiatric problems, and alcohol and drug use.

Doctors say these need to be factored in when trying to help these women quit.

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