Women in parts of the North East are more likely to smoke during pregnancy than virtually anywhere else in the country.
Despite strong health guidance urging women to quit while preparing for motherhood, some in the region are failing to take notice.
In the 12 months to this March, figures by the Health and Social Care Information Centre have shown as many as 25% of pregnant women in South Tyneside admitted they smoked, the highest in the North East.
Coun Moira Smith, lead member for health and wellbeing at South Tyneside Council, said: “Reducing smoking is a top priority for our Health and Wellbeing Board, and health colleagues across South Tyneside are working collectively to address smoking during pregnancy.”
In Durham Dales, Easington and Sedgefield as many as 22% pregnant women said they smoke, while in Sunderland it was 20%. North Tyneside had the lowest rate in the region at 13%.
Dianne Woodall, Public Health at Durham County Council, said: “We work very closely with our local stop smoking and maternity services to raise the issue of the harm caused to the unborn baby by smoking.”
The report shows nationally the prevalence of women who classed themselves as smokers while pregnant fell to 12% from 13% in the previous year, and this continues the steady decline from 2006-07 when this was 15%.
Ailsa Rutter, director of Fresh, the North East anti-smoking office, said: “Although we have seen large reductions in smoking over the last decade, we still have the worst rates of smoking in pregnancy in England. It is an issue that needs to be tackled collectively.
“Fresh working with every hospital trust in the region has launched the babyClear initiative to embed best practice within maternity services. Midwives are best placed to relay information to women and this now includes carbon monoxide screening as part of the routine tests all women receive at their initial booking appointment, which is part of national NICE guidance.
“If women are still smoking at 12 weeks, a midwife will talk them through a more detailed explanation of the potential harm to the foetus from being exposed to carbon monoxide and other poisons in tobacco smoke. All women with high readings will be referred to NHS Stop Smoking help to quit. It’s important partners quit too.”
In some parts of the country one in four mums-to-be admitted smoking.