More pregnant women in Bolton were smokers when they gave birth in 2023 compared to 2022, new figures show, but the rate has reduced significantly in the last five years.

NHS Digital figures show there were 85 pregnant women who were known to be smokers at the time of delivery in Bolton in the three months to September.

This was equivalent to 10.8 per cent of all 788 mothers registered at the former NHS Bolton CCG area – up from eight per cent during the same period in 2022-23.

However, despite the increase between the two years, NHS Digital data also shows a 15 per cent decrease in women who were reported to have smoked at the time of delivery in the first half of the year in 2020/21 compared to the same period in 2023/24.

And annual figures reveal total a 38 per cent decrease in the number of women who smoked at the time of delivery in Bolton, since the implementation of the Smokefree Pregnancy Programme in 2018.

A spokesperson for Greater Manchester Integrated Care Partnership, said: “As part of our ambition to make smoking history we’re committed to supporting pregnant women and their families to stop smoking for a healthier pregnancy and birth.

“This is demonstrated through the success of the Greater Manchester Smokefree Pregnancy programme.

“Since it was introduced in 2018, the number of women who smoke at the time of giving birth has fallen by a third and an estimated 5,000 more babies have been born free from the harm of tobacco smoke.

“Latest Office for National Statistics data reveals that 14.3 per cent of adults (equivalent to around 316,000 people) in Greater Manchester were smoking in 2022 – an estimated 24,000 fewer smokers compared to 2021. This is the lowest smoking prevalence on record for Greater Manchester.

“Greater Manchester also continues to close the regional and national smoking prevalence gap and now sits just 0.9 percentage points above the North West (13.4 per cent) and 1.6 percentage points above England (12.7 per cent).

“The narrowest the gap has ever been. Smoking at the time of delivery rates (SATOD) have fallen in Greater Manchester from 12.6 per cent in 2018 (the launch of the Smokefree Pregnancy Programme) to 8.2 per cent in 2022.

“These results and the continued investment, delivery and development of the Smokefree Pregnancy programme gives us confidence in our aim to meet the national four per cent target by 2026."

Changes have also been made in the borough to make improvements.

The spokesperson added: “The midwifery support provision was refreshed during 2023 in Bolton to ensure the effective delivery of the Smokefree Pathway, and one-to-one training, tools and resources provided to maternity staff.

“Already, the SATOD rates are on a downward trajectory. Long-term results of these efforts are expected to be reflected in annual figures as the trust continues to provide better health outcomes for pregnant women and their families across the locality.

“It’s important to remember that smoking is a serious addiction which often starts in childhood and takes much more than just willpower to overcome, especially during pregnancy when increased hormones and metabolic changes can make cravings even more intense.

“We know that parents-to-be want to give their baby the best start in life and are much more likely to quit with the right support.

“In Bolton and other areas of Greater Manchester, dedicated maternity stop smoking services, led by midwives, are on hand to support pregnant women and their partners to go smokefree.

“The services offer one-to-one support and free nicotine replacement that is safe to use during pregnancy and beyond.”

Linda Thomas, Bolton Council’s Executive Member for Health and Wellbeing said: “It’s reassuring that the national trend is downwards for the number of pregnant mothers smoking, and in Bolton we will continue to support every pregnant woman who smokes to help them quit.

“Supporting mums-to-be quit smoking helps protect families from the heartbreak of complicated births and greatly reduces the risk to babies’ health, and also puts money spent on tobacco back in their pockets ready for the new arrival in the family.

“This is why the support which thousands of mothers have already taken up to become smoke free is so vitally important.

“Most smokers find it hard to give up but there’s lots of support available, from classes to help you stop to nicotine replacement therapy, helping families lead healthier lives.

“So please ask for help from your GP, pharmacist, midwife, or call the National Smokefree helpline on 0300 123 1044 who can help you including providing nicotine replacement therapies.”

Smokers in Greater Manchester now have more access than ever before to free, personalised stop smoking support including:

  • Local stop smoking services, offering face to face or telephone appointments in one-to-one or group settings. Many of which also provide nicotine replacement, stop smoking medications or vaping devices, either free of charge or on prescription.
  • GP or pharmacy.
  • Specialist stop smoking support for hospital inpatients or midwifery support for smoke free pregnancies.
  • A digital stop smoking app, providing residents with a 6-month free specialist service. The App has since been downloaded by more than 4,500 residents who have collectively saved over £4.5m from not buying cigarettes – an average saving of £1,000 each.

Top tips to help you stop smoking in pregnancy:

  • Get support from your midwife or ask for a referral to the specialist stop smoking service.
  • Don’t be afraid to tell your midwife or healthcare professional that you smoke – you won’t be judged. They are there to make sure you get the support and care you need for a healthier, happier pregnancy.
  • Remember your reasons for quitting – protecting your baby from tobacco smoke is one of the best things you can do to give your child a healthy start in life.
  • Quit together with your partner or other family members and help each other. A smokefree home is a much safer environment for your family.
  • Don’t give up – quitting is a challenge, and it can sometimes take more than one attempt. The earlier you stop, the better, but quitting at any stage will benefit you and baby.

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