Women smoking whilst pregnant. Cigarette. Pregnancy.
Women smoking whilst pregnant. Cigarette. Pregnancy.

Number of smoking mums on rise

NICOTINE replacement therapies could help reduce the harm to both mothers and babies as alarming figures showing almost a fifth of northern Queensland mums smoked while pregnant.

The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare's new Child and maternal health 2013-2015 report presented findings on four indicators measuring the health of babies and their mothers: infant and young child deaths, low birthweight, mothers smoking during pregnancy and mothers attending antenatal care services during the first trimester.

The report showed between 2013-2015, 16.7 per cent of all northern Queensland women smoked during pregnancy.

In the period 2012-2014, the number was 17.6 per cent.

For Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers in the region almost 50 per cent smoked between 2013-2015.

Cairns Doctors general practitioner Dr Heather McNamee said the issue was "very fraught".

"If you go in too hard a lot of women will hide it. We need to be a lot more proactive about nicotine replacement during pregnancy. The labels say nicotine patches shouldn't be used by pregnant women but I think we should ignore that," she said.

"Nicotine is so much less harmful to mums and their babies. I'm not sure how much more education we can do with the public on the issue."

Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service medical services executive director Dr Nicki Murdock said the figures were "concerning".

"Numerous studies have shown smoking during pregnancy can lead to a range of complications, including an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and unexpected death in infants - just to name a few," she said.

"There is no safe level of smoking - the more cigarettes you smoke while pregnant, the more harm you do to yourself and your baby.

"Smoking cessation interventions are a routine part of antenatal care within the Cairns and Hinterland Hospital and Health Service."

The report also showed despite generally positive results across the nation, regional areas tended to perform worse than metropolitan areas.

In general across all indicators, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers and babies and those outside metropolitan areas recorded poorer results.

While about 1 in 10 Australian mothers smoked during pregnancy overall, the rate was much higher for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers, of whom 46.5 per cent smoked at some point during their pregnancy.

Pregnant women and all Far North Queensland residents seeking to quit smoking can call Quitline on 13 78 48.