Nearly one in five pregnant women are still smoking right up until the time they give birth according to the latest NHS figures.
The shock statistics released by the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) show that in 2013/14 some 19 per cent of mums to be were still smoking at the time they gave birth.
Health chiefs say that the figures are improving and claim new initiatives to tackle the issue are behind the drop in the number of mums to be smoking.
A spokesman for St Helens Council’s Public Health team said: “These figures date from earlier in the year and the situation has now improved significantly – falling from a Q3 figure of 21.1 per cent to 17.4 per cent for Q4. This gives an overall year to date figure of 19.0 per cent across St Helens for 2013/14 – well below the target of 23 per cent.
“The earlier figures are disappointing, but have to be taken in context – reflecting both the number of births overall and the number of women who smoke in that particular period.
“Over the last few years the overall trend is a definite decrease in smoking during pregnancy. We have one of the best care pathways across Merseyside – and in St Helens we have an incentive scheme that has proved effective in maintaining non-smoking throughout pregnancy. A new incentive scheme will be rolled out this year and the service will engage with even more women.
“Our advice to pregnant women always underlines the fact that smoking remains one of the few modifiable risk factors in pregnancy. It can cause a range of serious health problems, including lower birth weight, pre-term birth, placental complications and perinatal mortality.”
For more information visit: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/smoking-pregnant.asp