The RCM revealed that almost 70% of Heads of Midwifery have reported that they are without a stop smoking specialist midwife in their maternity team. The finding came from its annual Heads of Midwifery survey and was published in the new position statement titled “Support to Quit Smoking in Pregnancy”.
The new position statement reconfirms the RCM’s position that “quitting smoking is one of the best things a woman and her partner can do to protect their baby’s health through pregnancy and beyond”. The organisation is also calling for specialist stop-smoking support to be available to all pregnant women on an opt out basis and believes that NHS staff should also be supported to stop smoking, in work time if necessary.
RCM’s Chief Executive Gill Walton said “Smoking significantly increases the risk of miscarriage, stillbirth, and sudden infant death and birth abnormalities. Smoking also damages a mother’s health and is associated with maternal risks in pregnancy, such as placental abruption and eclampsia.”
“Evidence show that stopping smoking early in pregnancy can almost entirely prevent adverse effects and we need to be doing all we can to support women and their families to stop smoking.”
“Within the UK there is significant variation in maternal smoking rates, depending on age, ethnicity and socio-economic status and while there are innovative support programmes that are achieving good outcomes more intensive tailored support for women and their families is needed and that will require long term investment.”
As part of the quitting process, the RCM states: “E-cigarettes contain some toxins, but at far lower levels than found in tobacco smoke. If a pregnant woman who has been smoking chooses to use an e-cigarette (vaping) and it helps her to quit smoking and stay smokefree, she should be supported to do so.”
The organisation goes further, calling for other bodies to update how they categorise smoking and vaping: “If a woman has switched completely to vaping and is not smoking at all, she should be recorded as a non-smoker.”
The RCM believes, based on the available evidence on e-cigarette safety, that there is no reason to believe that use of an e-cigarette has any adverse effect on breastfeeding. It adds: “Vaping should continue if it is helpful to quitting smoking and staying smokefree.”
“Whilst e-cigarettes are not completely risk free, the Royal College of Physicians has estimated that e-cigarettes are likely to carry at most 5% of the risk of smoked tobacco20. They are not harmless, as the vapour they produce contains some toxins, but studies have shown that these are at levels far lower than those found in tobacco smoke.”
“The RCM believes there are strong reasons for testing the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes as a stop-smoking treatment for pregnant women and a randomised control trial is currently underway.”
- Position Statement: Support to Quit Smoking in Pregnancy – [link]