More must be done to halve the rates of smoking in pregnancy according to health campaigners, as the North East is highlighted as a problem area.
The Government has been told it should do more by the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group, which says the gap must be narrowed between the rich and the poor.
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.Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh
More than 70,000 pregnancies every year are affected by mothers-to-be smoking, figures suggest, while it causes about 2,200 premature births, 5,000 miscarriages and 300 stillbirths every year in the UK.
In the North East, alongside Cumbria, the number of women smoking at the time of delivery stands at 15.8% – in London it stands at 0.5%.
Out of 209 clinical commissioning groups across the UK, South Tyneside it is 25.8%, the highest out of all.
Across England, the smoking in pregnancy rate has
The smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group is made up of 20 organisations including Fresh, the North East campaign to cut smoking, Action on Smoking and Health, Bliss, the Faculty of Public Health, the Royal College of Midwives and the Royal College of Nursing.
The Lullaby Trust, Tommy’s and the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (Rcog) are also involved.
The group wants the Government to set a new national ambition to reduce smoking in pregnancy to less than 6% by 2020.
It also calling for a more robust data collection system, mandatory training for health professionals and automatic referral for pregnant smokers to specialist services unless they opt out.
Fresh has previously welcomed figures which suggested the region had reached its lowest rates of smoking during pregnancy, despite it still having the highest rates in the country.
They showed the rates had fallen from 18% to 16.3%, the lowest figure it has ever had on record.
They were announced as it championed babyClear, which ensures each women who smokes while she is expecting is given “full, frank and factual information” from a trained health professional about the harmful effects of carbon monoxide (CO) within tobacco smoke and given support to quit.
Lisa Surtees, acting director of Fresh, said: “Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risks of miscarriage and stillbirth, or having a premature baby who needs lots of medical attention.
“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.”
Dr David Richmond, president of the Rcog, said: “We support the national ambition to halve smoking in pregnancy rates by 2020.
“As obstetricians we see first-hand the devastating effects of miscarriage, premature births and stillbirths caused by smoking in pregnancy.
“Stopping smoking is the most important thing a pregnant woman can do to improve her baby’s health, growth and development and reduce unnecessary pregnancy complications.”
Francine Bates, chief executive of the Lullaby Trust, said: “Recent progress is great news but there is still much work to be done.
“Smoking in pregnancy remains the largest modifiable risk factor in sudden infant deaths, which devastates families.
“It is the most vulnerable who will be hit hardest if we do not do more to dramatically reduce the rates of smoking in pregnancy.”