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Smoking and Pregnancy

Volume 450: debated on Thursday 19 October 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the evidential basis was for the recent statement made by the Minister of State that pregnant teenagers smoke to try to reduce the size of their babies, and make delivery less painful; what steps she (a) has taken and (b) plans to take to warn pregnant teenagers of the risks of smoking to (i) themselves and (ii) their unborn babies; and if she will make a statement. (93363)

I made the observation, after having heard this issue anecdotally from both health professionals and young women, that some young pregnant women may take the message that smoking leads to low birth weight babies and that low birth weight or smaller babies may make childbirth less painful. It is important that we understand what stops young women making healthy choices and tailor our messages accordingly. In this case childbirth is no less painful if your baby is low weight.

The Department’s advice remains that women should not smoke during pregnancy. Women who smoke are less likely to carry their babies to full term and there is a 26 per cent. increased risk that they will miscarry or experience a stillbirth. Babies of smoking mothers are an average 200 g lighter at birth.