Motherhood doesn’t help women kick the habit, according to study showing that nearly 90 per cent of pregnant smokers were still using cigarettes when their babies were born.
Most women smokers quit spontaneously when they find out they are pregnant. But researchers from the University of Nottingham and the University of York found that only a “minority” of women who tried to quit during pregnancy were successful in maintaining abstinence to the end of pregnancy. Just 87 per cent of pregnant mothers who attended stop-smoking services were still smoking when their babies were born.
The report said: “Most pregnant smokers do not achieve abstinence from smoking while they are pregnant, and among those that do, most will restart smoking within six months of childbirth. This would suggest that despite large amounts of healthcare expenditure on smoking cessation, few women and their offspring gain the maximum benefits of cessation.”
The study also found that more than 40 per cent of women who give up smoking during pregnancy go back to cigarettes with six months of giving birth.
The report has led to questions over the effective of stop-smoking services to cater for pregnant smokers. Lead author Dr Matthew Jones, from the University of Nottingham, said: “Our report reveals a wide gulf between what pregnant women need to quit smoking and what our healthcare services currently provide.”
Public health authorities had hoped that a strong message in the last two decades calling on women to give up smoking while pregnant could have had longer term benefits for mothers. However according to new data from 27 stop-smoking trials involving nearly 600 women, two-fifths of mothers who quit smoking for pregnancy take up the habit again soon after their babies are born.
Women who take up smoking again after a break during pregnancy are exposing their children to health risking associated with passive smoking and also increase the likelihood that their children will become smokers, according to the study, published in the journal Addiction.
Deborah Arnott, chief executive of the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: “While it’s vital that pregnant smokers quit to give their baby the best start in life, the risk of serious harm from smoking doesn’t disappear once the baby is born. And all smokers in the home need to be encouraged to quit, or at least not to expose the baby to tobacco smoke, as whoever or wherever it comes from, tobacco smoke increases the risks of breathing problems and sudden infant death.”
Almost 19,000 pregnant smokers in England used NHS stop-smoking services during 2014/15, according to data from the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
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