The proportion of women smoking in pregnancy fell sharply in South Tyneside last year.
New figures show 18.7 per cent of mums-to-be in the South Tyneside NHS area were smoking at delivery in the first quarter of 2016, down from 25.8 per cent in the same period the previous year.
Across the North East, the rate fell from 16.3 per cent to 15.6 per cent, after a major four-year initiative by the region’s midwives.
Ailsa Rutter, director of North East smoking and health campaign Fresh, said: “Most women who smoke will have started in their teens or younger, and it is an addiction that is not always easy to quit.
“Stop smoking services offer friendly support and understanding to make quitting that bit easier. Having support at home can also really help.
“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 as part of their anti-natal care.
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.Ailsa Rutter
“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.”
The North East has adopted the babyClear approach, developed by the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre, which has seen around 450 midwifery staff and 150 Stop Smoking Service advisers trained to discuss the issues with mums-to-be in a factual, blame-free way, as well as being provided with equipment to help them quit.
A report by the Royal College of Physicians in 2011 found maternal smoking causes up to 5,000 miscarriages, 300 perinatal deaths (stillbirths and sudden infant deaths within the first four weeks of birth) and 2,200 premature births a year nationwide.
In the North East that breaks down to 360 miscarriages, 22 perinatal deaths (stillbirths and sudden infant deaths with the first four weeks of birth) and 160 premature births.