Colchester mum-to-be speaks out about the dangers of smoking during pregnancy
Published: May 2018
Laura Oliver from Colchester is due to give birth in May, but from the moment of her booking scan in October she was determined to stop smoking.
“I smoked in my first pregnancy and I decided I just didn’t want to smoke anymore. My son has asthma and I’ve blamed myself for that, so this time I was determined to stop for him and the little girl I’m expecting.
It’s just too risky when you know the dangers,” Laura said. 23-year-old Laura first talked to her midwife about the harms smoking can cause in pregnancy and at birth. “The midwife explained the risks of smoking, things like miscarriage and stillbirth.
I knew some of it already, but it scares you when you hear it out loud.” Laura added. Smoking in pregnancy restricts oxygen reaching an unborn baby, and increases the risks of complications in pregnancy such as stillbirth, premature birth, and low birth weight. It also increases the risk of children developing illnesses later on in life like asthma and ear infections. About one in ten mums to be in Essex were smokers at the time of delivery in 2015/16.
This has prompted Essex County Council to launch a powerful new campaign to highlight the risks and educate mums to be and their families about the dangers. The aim is education, but also action.
It seeks to explain the risks, but then direct women to the council’s local stop smoking service where they will receive support and help to quit.
The campaign also encourages partners and other family members who smoke to stop, as second hand smoke can also increase the danger to the baby. Laura used the council’s free, stop smoking service to give up a habit she has had since she was 13.
Once referred by her midwife, Laura met a counsellor in Colchester, near to where she lives. “The counsellor measured my carbon monoxide levels using a little box I had to blow into. She explained that it’s a poisonous gas that comes from smoking and it stops my baby getting the oxygen she needs.
She said I had the top level, that was quite a shock.” But Laura was reassured that she could do something to reverse this quickly, and with her counsellor’s support she gave up completely within two weeks. She has since gone back and had another carbon monoxide test. “I felt amazing, my levels were at the bottom, and I knew I could do it.” Laura said. Laura puts her success down to being aware of the dangers to her baby, which increased her willpower to stop.
The support she received from the stop smoking service helped put her willpower into action. She has found there have been other benefits to stopping. “I can breathe more easily now and I have more energy. I also have more money, which I now get to spend on baby clothes.”
“Everyone has been really supportive. My mum smokes and she was surprised that I stopped, but she is so proud of me. She joked to me, ‘I don’t want to see you with a cigarette ever again’ and, she won’t.”