The Chief Midwifery Officer at NHS England and NHS Improvement welcomes new resources aimed reducing smoking in pregnancy:
As a midwife with 31 years’ experience I am all too aware of the potential problems that smoking during pregnancy can cause.
Currently around 65,000 babies are born to mothers who smoke each year and there is strong evidence that shows that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk of many health problems for the mother and baby and can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.
Stopping smoking before and during pregnancy is one of the most important things a woman and her partner can do to protect their unborn baby’s health, while not smoking after the baby is born helps provide the best start in life.
As the first Chief Midwifery Officer for England and one of two national maternity safety champions, I believe that midwives are uniquely placed to provide a practical approach to reducing smoking in pregnancy by ensuring that all pregnant women are tested for exposure to carbon monoxide (CO) and referring those with elevated levels, to stop smoking support.
The provision of relational continuity will ensure that midwives provide personal and safe care to all women including those at greatest need of stop smoking support. This care must include the provision of Very Brief Advice (VBA) on smoking. This a short evidence-based intervention that uses the Ask, Advise and Act model, and has the potential to improve the health of the mother and baby.
I believe that as midwives we have a unique opportunity to make every contact count and get this important health message across to women and their families. Our first and subsequent antenatal and postnatal contacts provide an opportunity to ask about smoking behaviour, provide carbon monoxide testing and refer where appropriate to specialist stop smoking services.
This approach is now supported by additional resources from Public Health England. These resources offer further tools to help midwives and other healthcare professionals describe the main effects of smoking on the health of mother and baby, understand the patterns and prevalence of smoking among pregnant women and provide an overview of VBA and where this fits into the care pathway.
Prevention is critical in helping to meet our ambition to reduce preterm birth and stillbirth.
My key message to you is that this tiny step takes minutes, yet the health benefits are demonstrable. Your contact counts!
- See more information about the e-learning programme.