New figures have revealed that during 2015/16, around one in ten pregnant women in Essex were smokers at the time of having their babies.
Although Essex has seen a decline in numbers in recent years and has lower levels than the national targets, the figures confirm that 1,500 women were smoking during pregnancy.
Today, the County Council is launching a new campaign which aims to educate mums-to-be and their families on the dangers of smoking while pregnant. The campaign will also direct these women to local stop smoking services, and offer them support in quitting.
Smoking when pregnant can restrict the oxygen supply to the baby and as a result, the baby’s heart has to beat harder every time the mother smokes. Every cigarette smoked also contains over 4,000 chemicals inhaled into the mother’s body.
It also causes risks of complications in pregnancy and birth, risk of still birth, premature birth, low birth weight, a greater risk of sudden infant death syndrome and problems with the child in later life, such as asthma and other serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.
Director of Public Health Essex, Mike Gogarty, said: “This is the biggest and most hard hitting campaign of this kind to have taken place in Essex. Smoking while pregnant is extremely dangerous and we need to get that message across but at the same time make sure those mothers-to-be that are smoking know that we are there for them, and that we are going to support them in quitting.”
Chris French, Head of commissioning PH and Wellbeing said: “We know how hard quitting smoking is, but we want pregnant mums out there to know that there are local services that are there to support them and to help them quit.
“The campaign is hard-hitting to get the message across. We have also used a baby in the womb in all of our imagery, who is speaking to his or her Mum, Dad, Nan or Granddad, which is a powerful image and will hopefully encourage people to stop and think.”
The campaign will also aim to reach partners and parents of the pregnant woman to educate them on the dangers of second-hand smoke in pregnancy.
Chris French added: “It was really important for us to include partners and family members in this campaign. Second hand smoke is dangerous for pregnant mums and their babies, so it was crucial that we also reach these people and offer them support too.”
The campaign will run for a month and has been developed through working with pregnant women, midwives, and healthcare professionals. It will feature an intensive online campaign, poster and leaflet distribution, training days for midwives and healthcare professionals, information events and media relations.
A short film has been produced to support the campaign: