Smokefree Pregnancies Are Child Health Priority

Armen Hareyan's picture

Pregnancy and Smoking

Pregnancy and child health leaders have called for smoking in pregnancy risks to be brought out of hiding and taken seriously. Leaders from fertility, midwifery, obstetrics, neonatology, paediatrics, general practice and public health services met yesterday to consider ways of highlighting the harm caused by the in utero exposure of babies to tobacco smoke.

Forum participants agreed that achieving smokefree pregnancies would be a key driver of tobacco control and maternity care policies in the future. Priorities for action were increased professional and public awareness of the dangers, and assistance for parents to become smokefree.

Smoking in pregnancy is the single biggest preventable cause of pregnancy complications, including miscarriage, preterm birth and stillbirth. Each year around 18,000 unborn babies are exposed to poisonous tobacco chemicals in the womb.


Stephanie Cowan, Director of forum-organisers Education for Change, said it was critical that babies had the chance to grow and develop normally during the nine months of pregnancy.

"The chemicals in tobacco smoke cross the placenta, damaging it in the process. Tobacco-exposed placentas do not work as well as they should, meaning that the baby's supply of food and oxygen is restricted. As a result the pregnancy may end in miscarriage or stillbirth or the baby may be born early and struggle to survive."

She said that despite being the main preventable cause of adverse outcomes for pregnancy and child health, smoking in pregnancy was treated more as a social issue than a health one, by parents and health professionals alike.

"Smoking in pregnancy causes a whole raft of problems