Parents-to-be in Somerset are now less likely to smoke, thanks to a successful local campaign. Over the last five years Mums2Be Smokefree has helped nearly 1,700 expectant parents to quit smoking. As a result, babies in the county are less likely to be admitted to a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) due to smoking in pregnancy. Free long-term support, medication, home visits and telephone contact were found to help support and motivate people to stop smoking.
The service has five Stop Smoking Practitioners who work across Somerset to support expectant parents to give up smoking. Currently 78% of those who used the service have quit at 12 weeks and of those 82% were non-smoking at their baby’s birth. This has helped reduce the number of NICU admissions.
Emma Vokes from Somerset didn’t realise she was pregnant and continued smoking, but then experienced a miscarriage which prompted her to make the change. Emma is full of praise for the service. She said: “I had not long restarted smoking so I did decide to quit as I wanted a family, miscarrying if anything showed me that I did want that life so I wanted to quit so I could protect my baby.
“Steph, my coach, was always very understanding and would explain everything to me, such as any medications that were available. She didn’t make me feel pressured at all but was very comforting. To other mums in my position, I would say definitely get the help, don’t be afraid, it’s not worth any risk. It’s not an easy journey but once you get in the journey it gets much easier and you’ve just got to stay strong for your baby – just reach out.”
In 2020/21, 10% of people who had babies in Somerset were smoking at their time of delivery, down from 12% in 2019/20. It’s estimated that it cost £374 per person to run the Smokefree service in that period – in practitioner time, medication and vouchers. This compares to the cost of a NICU stay or long-term medical care which can run into thousands of pounds.
Tracey Hellyar, Team Leader for Mums2Be Smokefree, said: “We use a combination of incentives such as shopping vouchers, medication and one to one support to assist people to give up smoking. Smoking is the most modifiable risk factor in pregnancy, and I always see it as two-fold. We are not just supporting somebody to quit, we are supporting the whole family unit to be smoke free. So, when we see the family at that final postnatal visit, with their baby in their arms, you feel proud to have been part of their smoke free journey.”
Nationally the ‘relative risk’ of admission to a NICU for babies of smoking parents is increased by at least 20% compared to those who do not smoke, and babies born to parents who smoke are likely to stay longer in a NICU. Smokers are also less likely to breast/chestfeed, which is closely linked to health inequalities.
Stephanie Dummackin, Mums2Be Stop Smoking Practitioner, said: “Our success rate is high and we are really doing what we set out to do. There are risks through pregnancy, labour and once baby is born, so stopping at any point is beneficial. For people who smoke, there is an increased risk of intervention in labour and birth, including induction because the baby is small, and an increased risk of infection post birth.
“As well as miscarriage and stillbirth, smoking increases that risk that baby can actually die. It’s quite blunt and harsh to say this, but that’s the reality of the risk. We are making people aware that quitting is the best decision. Out of anything that you can do in your pregnancy this is the biggest choice you can make to limit the long list of smoking-related risks.”
Want to quit smoking for you or your family?
Telephone: 01823 356222 or click the link here