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Quitting Smoking During Pregnancy A Priority

22 November 2016

Too many pregnant women are putting their unborn babies at risk by continuing to smoke late into their pregnancy, new figures released today show.

The Victorian Perinatal Services Performance Indicators Report 2014-15 shows that the rate of women smoking after 20 weeks gestation has increased from 5.6 per cent in 2009 to 7.8 percent in 2014.

Pregnant women who smoke are at increased risk of ectopic pregnancy, miscarriage, placenta praevia and pre-term labour, and are more likely to give birth to a smaller baby.

Small babies are more vulnerable to infection and other short and long-term health problems. Pregnancy is an important time for health professionals to help women quit - particularly given that women are motivated by their baby’s health.

While the longer term increase of women smoking late into their pregnancy is concerning, the report also shows fewer women are smoking earlier in their pregnancy, with the rate of women smoking before 20 weeks falling from 13.3 per cent in 2013 to 12.6 per cent in 2014.

The report shows more women are planning vaginal births after a caesarean section as well as improved rates of breastfeeding.

It presents comparative hospital data on mothers and babies during pregnancy, childbirth and the postnatal period.

The Andrews Labor Government has implemented a range of measures to assure the safety and quality of maternity services and put women and their babies first. These include:

  • A new Victorian Perinatal Autopsy Service to improve the quality and timeliness of perinatal mortality investigations
  • Six new regional perinatal mortality and morbidity review committees to improve the capability of rural services to review all perinatal deaths and morbidity cases
  • $1.4 million for maternity services to implement systems and supports to provide staff training to better monitor babies during labour and delivery.

Quotes attributable to Minister for Health Jill Hennessy

“It’s extremely concerning that we’re still seeing women smoking late into their pregnancy, putting their unborn babies at risk.”

“The safety of mothers and babies is our highest priority – that’s why we’re overhauling our quality and safety system, and investing in better training and support for staff to ensure our maternity services are as safe as they can be.”

Reviewed 19 August 2020

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