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Pregnant Smokers And Criticism

Monday, February 9th, 2009 Pregnant Smokers And Criticism

In a report by the BBC (04 02 09) it has been suggested that many of the pregnant women who smoke, fail to seek help in quitting the habit because they feel that they are being judged according to a poll carried out by the NHS.

Moreover, of the 224 pregnant smokers that were questioned, 25% were reluctant to seek help because they feared being criticised.

Alarmingly, 40% had not even declared their habit.

The NHS is about to launch yet another campaign to try and encourage the 17% of pregnant smokers who ask for help to give up their habit.

Notwithstanding, the Royal College of Midwives welcomed the initiative but warned women should not be stigmatised for smoking when pregnant.

It is argued that smoking whilst pregnant may reduce the amount of oxygen available to the developing foetus, and babies of smokers are more likely to be born with a lower birthweight.

The government have spent inexcess of £6m in a concerted effort to tackle smoking in pregnancy. Specialists are available to advise women on the risks and practical solutions to quitting.

As with many of the NHS campaigns, the survey, commissioned by the NHS Smokefree team, reveals that many women never even seek help in the first place.

Leading the new campaign is Dr Miriam Stoppard who says, “Pregnant women who smoke do not automatically find it easy to stop smoking as soon as they become pregnant.

“Pregnancy can be a particularly difficult time to stop smoking - and rather than stigmatising these women, we should be guiding them to their local NHS Stop Smoking Service for expert advice and support.

An NHS specialist in pregnancy, Lisa Fendall stresses, “We see lots of pregnant women who are worried about trying to stop smoking and feel they don’t have the support or anyone to talk to about it.”

She said that everything from group sessions to smoking helplines was available in her area.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists said: “Healthy women have healthy babies who grow into healthy children.

“We are delighted to see such strong messages in an NHS public health campaign. These help remove some of the stigma identified by women as being barriers to change.

“However, we must go further. Apart from those already pregnant, we must also encourage and support women who are trying to conceive and those who have given birth to stop smoking.”

Royal College of Midwives General Secretary Cathy Warwick, said: “Any steps to reduce smoking among pregnant women are to be applauded.”

But she said: “In working to reduce smoking though, we must not point an accusing finger and stigmatize women who smoke during pregnancy.

“The focus should be on encouraging pregnant women to discuss the issue with their midwife who will offer help, support and guidance.

“Midwives and women can then work together to help the women stop, so that they and their babies can have a healthier future.”

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