Shocking new figures have revealed more than half of expectant teenage mums in Pontefract and Knottingley smoke during pregnancy.
Figures released this week show 55.6 per cent of expectant teenage mums in the two towns smoked during pregnancy in 2012-13.
It was ten per cent higher than the rate for the Wakefield district as a whole – which is itself one of the highest rates in Yorkshire and the Humber.
In Castleford during the same time, 43.5 per cent of pregnant teenagers smoked, while in Featherstone and Normanton it was 39.4 per cent.
Dr Andrew Furber, director of public health at Wakefield Council, said: “These figures are quite startling, considering the well-known serious implications smoking can have on mother and baby – before andafter birth.
“Every time a pregnant woman inhales from a cigarette, it reduces the amount of oxygen reaching her baby, meaning its heart has to work harder.
“Alarmingly, one thing we are hearing more is that some women are continuing to smoke throughout their pregnancy in the hope they will give birth to a small baby.
“Yet the reality is smoking can be responsible for a whole series of health-related problems, including complications during labour, an increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth, low birth weight – which can lead to other health issues – and sudden unexpected death in infancy such as cot death.”
Figures for women smoking during pregnancy in all age groups across the district was 23 per cent – against a national average of 13 per cent.
The rates were higher locally – Castleford had the highest rate, with 29.6 per cent of women smoking during pregnancy, 25 per cent in Pontefract and Knottingley and 24.5 per cent in Featherstone and Normanton.
Dr Furber added: “Expectant mothers should know that it is never too late to give up the habit.
“Every cigarette you don’t smoke will benefit your baby’s health. It is a hard habit to break, but there is a wide range of options available to help smokers cut down and stop altogether.”
Smokefree Wakefield is an alliance of authorities and agencies working to reduce tobacco use across the district. Expectant mothers can get advice from www.wakefieldstopsmoking.co.uk or speak to their midwife.