Local mothers urged to stop smoking

MIDWIVES at the Lagan Valley Hospital are urging local mothers to stub out their cigarettes and go ‘smoke free’ during their pregnancy.

Recent statistics have shown that some 15% of mothers smoke throughout their pregnancy.

The shock figure reflects the general increase in the number of young women who smoke, and is causing concern about the health of newborn babies.

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‘Smoke Free Wombs’ is an initiative by midwives in the South Eastern HSC Trust to encourage mums-to-be to stop smoking.

Currently, 15.4% of pregnant women who book with the Trust are smokers.

‘Smoke Free Wombs’ uses Facebook, a powerful DVD and cartoon images to try and get the message across that smoking harms the unborn child.

Midwives are asking mums-to-be to sign a pledge to work in partnership with them to give up. Mums-to-be will receive a letter outlining how smoking can harm babies in the womb and offering the opportunity to meet with the Health Improvement Midwife. The woman will then be offered intensive support to use the smoking cessation services.  

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New mum Michelle Walsh, from Lisburn, appears on the DVD on Facebook.

“I saw the damage my daughter had done to her baby’s placenta through smoking,” she said. “It was gritty, like a sweet dropped on the sand.

“When I became pregnant, smoking just wasn’t an option. I had to give up.”

The DVD also features Consultant Obstetrician Dr Niamh McCabe, who said: “We do see nicotine withdrawal symptoms in babies. It makes them jittery.”

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Health Improvement Midwife Cathy Bell explained: “Research has shown that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of complications for the baby. These include premature delivery, low birthweight and cot death. NICE guidance found that women may receive mixed messages about smoking in pregnancy and to aid behavioural change consistent advice should be given to any woman who is smoking and pregnant.

“The new Smoking Cessation Initiative in the South Eastern HSCT, ‘Smokefree Wombs’ provides women booking for their pregnancy with the opportunity to pledge to stop smoking during pregnancy. Women are provided with consistent information through face-to-face contact, phone support, text message and Facebook.

“Pregnant women who smoke form a priority group on the Department of Health’s 10-year Tobacco Control Strategy for Northern Ireland.

“There is never anything negative about stopping smoking and the benefits for mums and babies begin as soon as the first cigarette is stubbed out.

“This initiative encourages women to feel empowered and committed to quitting smoking through friendly, consistent support to choose the best start for their baby — a Smokefree Womb”.

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