Wednesday 10 March is No Smoking Day, each year over 1,000 Essex mums-to-be get help from dedicated midwives at Mid and South Essex NHS Foundation Trust to help them quit or cut down smoking ahead of them giving birth.
It’s something that improves the health of women, but also their babies, and is especially important as smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and even cot death.
Sarah Leach, lead midwife for stop smoking at Basildon Hospital, said: “Smoking in pregnancy is dangerous because of the 4,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke crossing the placenta to the baby. One of the most dangerous is carbon monoxide. This is found in all cigarette smoke – both tailor-made cigarettes and roll-ups – no matter how small. Carbon monoxide is especially dangerous as it deprives the developing baby of oxygen, slowing growth and development.
“We ask woman who come to us at the start of their pregnancy if they smoke, give advice about why it is better to be smoke free and help refer women to services and free support to help them quit. There is a lot of local support out there and treatments include nicotine replacements such as patches, gum, lozenges, inhalators and vapes.”
Someone who has already received help from one of the quit smoking midwives is Amber Judd.
Amber, 21, from Orsett, had tried quitting before but was spurred on by the news of her pregnancy, recognising that it was a ‘big sign’ that she had to change her 10 cigarettes a day habit, that she’s had since she was 15.
She said: “I just thought about the benefits quitting smoking would have afterwards, and the positive impact it would have on me and my baby. I know it’s hard to quit, but a new baby is worth quitting for. It’s not just about your life now; it is your baby’s as well.”
Amber has not had a cigarette for several months now, thanks to the help of the quit smoking midwife at Basildon Hospital, and is already reaping the benefits.
She said: “I’ve had a few really helpful phonecalls with the team and they also sent me out a stop smoking pack with advice about different ways I could help myself quit. Their support has been vital, as you know it’s not just you fighting in the dark.
“As a result of quitting I have more energy, I now wake up not as tired and my appetite has come back again, which means I am eating better for both me and my baby. Not buying cigarettes also means I’m saving a lot more money, which is really helpful with a baby on the way.”
And it isn’t just pregnant women who are receiving help, it is their partners and family as well, highlighting the dangers of passive smoking to those who are unborn or newborns with lungs that are tiny and still developing.
Sarah said: “It’s important that everyone thinks about their smoking habits and that we support the family and help improve their health, life and that of their baby. Everyone benefits and it gives us the opportunity to get the positive health messages out there even further. We know that with help you are four times more likely to quit smoking.”