Pregnant smokers fear judgement from doctors

New NHS poll reveals pregnant smokers avoid help to quit for fear of criticism

Some pregnant women who smoke are too afraid to seek help from their GP to quit the habit, for fear of being ‘judged’, according to a new NHS poll.

As many as 25% of the 224 pregnant smokers who were quizzed for the survey admitted they had not looked for help owing to worries about being criticised for damaging their unborn baby.

A further 40% revealed they had not even admitted their smoking habit to doctors or midwives.

The poll has prompted the launch of a new campaign to encourage the 17% of pregnant smokers in England to ask for help in quitting.

The move has been welcomed by The Royal College of Midwives but the organisation warned that women who smoke when pregnant should not be judged.

The effects of smoking while pregnant can be widespread. It can reduce the amount of oxygen available to the developing foetus, and babies can often be born with a lower than average birthweight.

In 2002 the government launched a £6m initiative to train specialists to advise women on the risks of smoking in pregnancy and offering ways to help them quit. However, the latest poll has shown that some women don’t try to seek advice in the first instance.

Dr Miriam Stoppard who will lead the new campaign explained: ‘Pregnant women who smoke do not automatically find it easy to stop smoking as soon as they become pregnant.

Pregnancy can be a particularly difficult time to stop smoking – and rather than stigmatising these women, we should be guiding them to their local NHS Stop Smoking Service for expert advice and support.’

Royal College of Midwives General Secretary, Cathy Warwick, said: ‘Any steps to reduce smoking among pregnant women are to be applauded.’

But she said: ‘In working to reduce smoking though, we must not point an accusing finger and stigmatize women who smoke during pregnancy.

‘The focus should be on encouraging pregnant women to discuss the issue with their midwife who will offer help, support and guidance.’

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