Fewer women are smoking during pregnancy, new figures have revealed.
There has been a rapid fall in numbers thanks to a major four-year initiative involving midwives to embed best practice in maternity services.
Every woman smoking when they see a midwife is now given information about risks to their baby and put in contact with support to quit – resulting in rates falling by nearly a third over the last six years.
Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risks of miscarriage and stillbirth, or having a premature baby who needs lots of medical attention.
Janice McNichol, head of midwifery at Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Midwives are making a massive difference – since the introduction of babyClear we are seeing more mums-to-be who have taken the decision to quit smoking and that has been as a direct result of this being raised as a serious issue by their midwife.”
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, said: “Monitoring carbon monoxide is done quickly and simply alongside the other routine screening tests carried out at the booking appointment in order to identify and address health concerns to the baby and mum-to-be.”
She added: “Women need the facts but also to know there is excellent free support to quit smoking where they will be supported and helped, not have the finger wagged at them.
“Some women can find the facts quite shocking – but most are very glad they have been told and come to expect this in all appointments.
“The north east has seen the largest falls in smoking in England and we still have lots to do before we are down to the national average or lower for pregnancy, but we are moving in the right direction.”
Following babyClear’s launch in 2012, around 450 midwifery staff and 150 Stop Smoking Service advisers have received skills training to discuss the issues with women in a factual, blame-free way, as well as being provided with equipment to deliver interventions.