Urgent action needed to tackle smoking rates amongst pregnant women in Wales

Pregnancy Premature Birth RCM Wales NHS Wales RCM Member RCM Wales Smoking Welsh Government Specialist Midwives Funding Teenage Pregnancy

‘Efforts need to be redoubled to tackle smoking rates among pregnant women as a matter of urgency.’ That is the message from the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) in Wales as it responds to new maternity and pregnancy statistics published by the Welsh Government.

The figures published today show 17% of pregnant women in Wales were recorded as smokers during the first initial pregnancy assessment. While one in three (34%) of young women ages aged 16 to 19 were recorded as smokers at initial assessment.

The RCM has long argued that quitting smoking is one of the best things a woman can do for herself and her baby and specialist stop smoking support should be available for all pregnant women. Health Specialist stop smoking advisors should also be closely aligned with and contain members of the maternity team.

Commenting, the Royal College of Midwives (RCM) Director for Wales, Helen Rogers, said:

“It is very concerning that the number of smokers in pregnancy in Wales is not falling. These latest statistics so no real change on last year’s report, what is even more worrying is that one in three girls between the age of 16-19 years old are recorded as smokers at the time of giving birth.  The devastating effects of smoking in pregnancy are well documented, particularly the link between smoking in pregnancy and stillbirths. Efforts now need to be redoubled to improve intervention as a matter of urgency.”

One in six mothers (17% recorded) as being smokers at time they gave birth that has increased by one percent on last year. There was also no improvement in rates of smoking at time of birth, with 35% of young women aged between 16 and 19 years still smoking when delivering their baby.

Public Health Wales (PHW) have also confirmed that unlike in England there are no plans to reintroduce CO2 monitoring for pregnant women in Wales.

Helen added:

“A concerted effort is needed to target areas in Wales where smoking levels remain high. Quitting smoking is not easy and pregnant women need more specialist support to help them stop for good. We know that higher rates of smoking are closely linked to wider social and financial inequalities in Wales. As a country there is much we can do, not just in maternity services, but much wider across society in other ways, such as education in schools, focusing on positive preconception care, advice, and support. All of this need’s investment if we are to truly tackle smoking in pregnancy rates in Wales.”


To contact the RCM Media Office call 020 7312 3456, or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:



  • The RCM is the only trade union and professional association dedicated to serving midwifery and the whole midwifery team. We provide workplace advice and support, professional and clinical guidance, and information, and learning opportunities with our broad range of events, conferences, and online resources. For more information visit the RCM website.