Guest blog: New tools to help you support smokefree pregnancies

By Viv Bennett, Chief Nurse and Director Maternity and Early Years, PHE on 26 June 2019 Smoking Pregnancy Midwives

As midwives are well aware, stopping smoking is one of the best things a woman and her partner can do to protect the health of their baby through pregnancy and beyond. But you may not be aware that in recent years the percentage of women recorded as smokers when they give birth has plateaued. In the UK, around 70,000 babies each year are born to mothers who smoke and two babies die suddenly every week because their mothers smoked in pregnancy or after birth.

Midwives have a unique opportunity to influence the health of two generations. Midwives, working collaboratively with colleagues in general practice and health visiting, can dramatically improve the health of women, their partners, families and communities.

Every midwife can make a vital difference to help women quit cigarettes by providing information about the serious harms of smoking while pregnant, and delivering supportive advice and action to women and their families. To support you in this important work, Public Health England, the NHS and the National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training has recently launched a series of new materials to help midwifery teams offer the best possible support to pregnant smokers.

These new educational materials sit alongside the existing range of smoking in pregnancy resources available on e-learning for healthcare. Highlighting the importance of supporting women to have a smokefree pregnancy, they focus on the delivery of Very Brief Advice (VBA) and Carbon Monoxide (CO) monitoring. VBA is a proven intervention that has the potential to improve the health, and even save the life, of both mother and baby. CO testing for women at antenatal appointments is recommended by NICE and provides an opportunity to offer specialist stop smoking support to those that need it.

There are new short films to help all maternity team members think about real-life situations they may face and how they can act to offer women the best possible support. The first film reflects on the importance of brief conversations in routine care while the second focuses on the story of a young woman who smokes, looking at how skilled midwifery interventions can help create vastly different outcomes for a mother and her unborn baby. They’re a powerful reminder of the vital role that midwives can play. It’s a fascinating film that gives an opportunity for a meaningful professional reflection on our conversations and interactions with clients. I encourage you to take a few minutes to watch.

As well as enhancing your understanding of the value of VBA, these new and freely available resources will help healthcare professionals describe the main effects of smoking upon the health of mother and baby and also to better understand the patterns and prevalence of smoking among pregnant women. Please do visit the resources, share them with colleagues and consider how they can be used in your day-to-day practice.

Access the resources now by clicking here.


Read the RCM position statement on Support to Quit Smoking in Pregnancy.