Pregnant smokers in Lothians wising up

Jodie Biggins and her son Cameron. Picture: Scott Louden
Jodie Biggins and her son Cameron. Picture: Scott Louden
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MORE pregnant smokers are being helped to quit in the Lothians than ever before thanks to stop-smoking services for mums-to-be.

Stop for Life supports expectant mothers who need advice and expertise to help kick the habit, with nearly 3000 trying to give up across Scotland last year.

Health bosses in Lothian expect this number to rise now all women are routinely offered carbon monoxide testing at their first antenatal appointment, then given personalised information about how much they and their unborn baby are being exposed to dangers.

The simple breath test forms part of the Scottish Patient Safety Maternity Improvement Programme, and is open to all early-stage mums-to-be.

Anne Finnie, co-ordinator of stop-smoking services for pregnant women across the region, said the checks have already helped to encourage more women to stop. She said: “They can be a great motivator as it doesn’t take long to see positive results from quitting.

“Although carbon monoxide is a really toxic gas, it leaves your system in 24 hours. When you’re pregnant, these young women aren’t thinking about their chances of having a heart attack at 50, they’re thinking about the here and now.

“Often this test can be really motivational. If they have this reading done and it’s quite high, then it’s a real boost to them to have it done again 24 hours after they last had a cigarette and find their levels are down to a non-smoker.”

Smoking during pregnancy is the single largest preventable cause of foetal disease and death, linked to low birth weight, miscarriage, stillbirth, early labour, and problems with the placenta.

Quitting during pregnancy is even harder as changes to the body cause it to use up nicotine much faster, leading mums to want to smoke more. But anyone that quits in the first trimester cuts the risk of having a low-birth weight baby. Mrs Finnie, a midwife, says expectant mums can have short-term nicotine therapy.

Advisors hold weekly one-to-one sessions, often throughout the pregnancy, with support even after the baby is born

She said: “It’s all about support, not pressure, to stop. A lot of these women have a real burden of guilt and need our help in turning that around and putting a much more positive mind set on things, focusing on the nicer things that will be happening to them, like feeling the baby moving. I think they find it quite reassuring to know there is actually a reason why they’re struggling to quit .”

ASH Scotland believes more still needs to be done to tackle the issue in deprived communities. Its research showed 30 per cent of pregnant women in the most deprived categories smoke when they first meet a midwife and every year, more than 11,000 Scottish babies are affected by smoking.

Sheila Duffy, chief executive of ASH Scotland, said: “Stop smoking support needs to be offered to pregnant women and those close to them, especially in the communities where smoking rates are highest.”

‘Habit played on my mind when I was pregnant’

MUM Jodie Biggings knows just how tough quitting can be.

She used Stop for Life while pregnant with son Cameron, 14 months, needing an inhalator just for two days.

The 24-year-old from Broomhouse was smoking between ten and 15 cigarettes a day when she found out she was expecting.

She said: “Because I had two miscarriages before, it played on my mind a lot about smoking. Me and my husband Stuart both stopped smoking.

“I thought I’ve got this baby inside me, why put something into him when he can’t choose?”

Jodie quit for several months but relapsed when Cameron got taken into hospital for unrelated reasons. She is now using services again and said: “I’m annoyed at myself but determined to quit for good this time.”


Free support to stop smoking is available across the Lothians.

You can get information about your local stop smoking services from Smokeline on 0800 84 84 84, or visit where you can also chat online with a trained adviser.

NHS stop smoking services are available throughout the Lothians. Trained, friendly advisers will help you by giving expert advice and practical support.

This can be in a group with other people who are also trying to give up smoking, or as one-to-one support. Advisers can help with choosing medication such as nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), varenicline (Champix) or bupropion (Zyban).

You can also access NHS support at any community pharmacy with weekly one-to-one support.

See Also:

Bid to make Lothians smoke-free zone