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5 December 2014, 05:00
An Ashington woman's urging mums-to-be not to smoke while they're pregnant as she believes cigarettes played a part in her losing her unborn child.
Three years ago, 31 year old Sophie Jones, from Ashington, suffered every pregnant woman's nightmare when she lost her baby boy, Korey, to a still birth.
Now 20 weeks pregnant, Sophie has quit smoking once and for all to protect her unborn baby girl with the help of Northumberland Stop Smoking Service.
She told Heart:
"I've experienced the worst possible heartache that no parent should have to go through. Losing my baby boy is one of my biggest regrets and continues to haunt me to this day. Instead of tucking Korey up in bed, I go and visit his grave which is just so sad.
I never fully understood the risks of smoking while pregnant. I just thought it led to a smaller baby. How wrong I was. I would cut down when I fell pregnant, but obviously that wasn't enough to save my baby. I was told that I'd suffered a still birth because of the damage to my placenta, which I now believe is down to smoking.
Sophie had previously experienced tragedy eight years ago, when her son Frankie died four days after being born due to sudden infant death syndrome or cot death. Whilst she doesn't know that this was due to smoking, she wants to give her baby the best chance of being healthy and is quitting smoking.
"I've always dreamed of a big family, so when I fell pregnant again I was determined to quit for good. I visited Northumberland Stop Smoking Service where the advisors were just the best. They gave me so much knowledge and support that I can't thank them enough for what they've done.
When they sat me down to explain how smoking could be depriving my unborn baby of oxygen I felt sick. To learn smoking could be damaging me and my unborn baby in this way was gutting. I made my mind up about quitting there and then.
I've now been quit for four months and I've never felt better. I no longer suffer from breathlessness and the money I've saved from not buying cigarettes has bought a new cot for the baby.
All of my children are so proud of me for not smoking and tell me all the time how happy they are that I don't smell. I'd encourage any mums-to-be who smoke to think about the risks to your baby and get support to quit. Don't wait to suffer like I did."
Despite signs fewer women are smoking during pregnancy in the North East, hundreds of mums-to-be could be faced with unimaginable tragedy unless they quit.
That is the warning from Fresh, who are pleading with pregnant smokers to give their baby the best start in life by getting the support they need to go smoke-free.
Smoking is one of the biggest risks to the health of unborn babies, depriving them of vital oxygen and cutting off the supply of nutrients they need to grow properly.
It is estimated that 360 tiny lives are lost every year in the region due to smoking-related miscarriages, with between 3,000 and 5,000 lost nationally.
As well as being a major cause of stillbirth and premature birth, the poisons found in tobacco smoke can also increase the risk of cot death, birth defects and lead to a child developing behavioural problems in their early years.
However, while one in five women continue to smoke during pregnancy in the region, compared to one in eight nationally, early signs are emerging that a major North East-wide initiative is helping more mums-to-be quit.
Supported by all eight of the North East's hospital foundation trusts, Heads of Midwifery and NHS Stop Smoking Services, babyClear ensures every woman smoking during pregnancy is now given full, frank and factual information from a trained health professional about the harmful effects of carbon monoxide (CO) and given support to quit.
New figures (April to June 2014) show a small, but encouraging 10% reduction from 20% to 18% of North East women smoking at the time they give birth, compared to the same period last year. This is the largest fall the North East has had in recent years, and is higher than the national drop of 0.5%.
Lisa Surtees, Acting Director of Fresh, said:
"Every parent wants to give their child the best possible start in life. For smokers who become pregnant, quitting smoking early in your pregnancy will not only protect your unborn baby from all of the horrible chemicals found in a cigarette, but will also reduce the risk of the unthinkable loss of miscarriage and stillbirth.
The earlier that pregnant smokers can quit tobacco, the better it is for them and their baby, but it is never too late to stop.
Babyclear is a national first to embed best practice in every maternity unit across a whole region. We're really pleased to see that fewer unborn babies are being exposed to tobacco smoke and are encouraged that this more factual and honest approach is already making an impact.
Smoking is an addiction that usually starts in childhood. Women need the facts but also to know there is excellent free support to quit smoking where they will be supported and helped, not have the finger wagged at them.
"Midwives are the best placed health professionals to deliver really important health information to pregnant women across a whole range of topics. They can fully explain how smoking is one of the biggest risks to baby, and highlight the extra care and attention a prematurely born, underdeveloped baby needs."
Following babyClear's launch last year, around 450 midwifery staff and 150 Stop Smoking Service advisers have received skills training to discuss the issues with women in a factual, blame-free way, as well as being provided with equipment to deliver interventions. It works in two ways:
* Women now receive carbon monoxide (CO) screening as part of the routine tests they receive during their first appointment with midwifery staff. High CO readings can be down to tobacco smoke but also faulty exhausts or poorly ventilated heating appliance. All high CO readings are routinely referred to NHS Stop Smoking Services within 24 hours.
* Midwives in most North East trusts now talk women still smoking through a more detailed, hard-hitting discussion at the 12 week dating scan using new software to show the potential harm being done when a baby is exposed to carbon monoxide. All Trusts should have this intervention in place by the end of 2014.
Dr Stephen Sturgiss, Clinical Lead for the North East Maternity Network and Clinical Director at the Newcastle upon Tyne Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said:
"We are talking about grief of enormous proportions when we consider 360 women are suffering miscarriages a year due to smoking.
Women continue smoking during pregnancy because they are addicted. It is not a lifestyle choice but a clinical priority. Health professionals like GPs, nurses, obstetricians and midwives have a pivotal role to help make a difference."