Warning as Havering top for smoking during pregnancy

Young woman stop to smoke while she is pregnant

Young woman stop to smoke while she is pregnant - Credit: Getty Images/Wavebreak Media

Pregnant women have been urged not to play Russian roulette with the health of their unborn child – as new figures show Havering has the highest rate of smoking during pregnancy in London.

Movements in a fetus whose mother is a smoker (top) and a fetus whose mother is a non-smoker (below)

Movements in a fetus whose mother is a smoker (top) and a fetus whose mother is a non-smoker (below). - Credit: Archant

The calls come as a Recorder investigation reveals the health of hundreds of unborn children every year is put at risk because their mothers smoke.

This can lead to miscarriage, premature birth, low birth weight and other complications that disadvantage a child from the womb.

The data shows 11 per cent of expectant mums – or 579 women – smoked in Havering from April 2013 to December 2014.

Health experts described our findings as “concerning”, claiming there was plenty of help available.

Shannon Elliot

Shannon Elliot - Credit: Archant

Hazel Cheeseman, director of policy at Ash (Action on Smoking and Health), said: “Giving up smoking while pregnant is one of the biggest things people can do to ensure their baby is healthy.

“If you smoke when you are pregnant the inequalities for that child begin before they are even born. They are at a higher risk of illness and have a greater chance of becoming a smoker in the future.”

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According to Ash, up to 2,200 premature births and 5,000 miscarriages every year in the UK are caused by smoking during pregnancy.

We analysed the latest Department of Health data for more than 200,000 pregnancies in London from April 2013 to December 2014.

The greatest success in tackling maternal smoking has been in the capital where the majority of boroughs now have a rate below 10pc compared to the England average of 11.7pc.

Ash said this was due to factors such as a high proportion of women from ethnic groups, where smoking is not prevalent, and women giving birth at an older age than elsewhere in the country.

In 2006-07 6.9pc of mums in Havering were smoking at the time they gave birth and this increased to 10.2pc in 2007-08 and 11.9pc in 2008-09, it is now 11pc.

A spokesman for Havering Council, which has responsibility for public health, said: “We know the dangers of smoking when pregnant, and we have worked to reduce this.

“However there is clearly more work to be done.

“We have recently introduced a new approach, called ‘babyclear’, in partnership with our neighbouring borough Barking and Dagenham, the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre, local midwives and stop smoking services.

“This ensures every pregnant smoker gets clear advice about the dangers, and midwives use carbon monoxide meters to demonstrate the effects of smoking on mother and baby.”

Case study: ‘I managed to give up smoking while pregnant’

New mother Shannon Elliot was smoking 10 to 20 cigarettes a day when she fell pregnant with her daughter last year.

The 22-year-old, from Harold Hill, knew the risks and quit cigarettes as soon as she found out she was pregnant.

“I was worried about what continuing smoking would do to my daughter so I stopped,” she said. “My partner smoked and he continued throughout the pregnancy, so I needed support from him to go outside and not be around me when he smoked. It was the same with others, I would say I didn’t want them to smoke around me.”

But temptation quickly returned following the birth of her little girl, who is now eight months old.

“I was really pleased being pregnant,” explained Shannon. “Once I had her I thought I could stay smoke-free but it didn’t go that way.

“About a month or two afterwards I started again. I fancied one and I thought ‘one can’t hurt’. And the next thing you know I was back to smoking again.”

Despite seeking professional support Shannon has struggled to kick the habit.

“After I gave birth I took it upon myself to go to the doctors but I didn’t find anything helpful really,” she said.

She is worried about the impact on her daughter.

“I wish I’d never smoked in the first place,” Shannon said. “What I’m worried about is my daughter might be more likely to smoke.

“I see her looking at me if I’ve just rolled a cigarette and I think ‘I don’t want her to smoke, I don’t want her to have to live with that burden’.

“I’m hopefully going to talk myself into stopping again.”

If you have a story for our new investigations unit, please contact Emma Youle on 07785 616 237 or emma.youle@archant.co.uk