New report finds midwives and doctors need more training to address smoking in pregnancy

18 July 2017

A new report [1] is published by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) [2] on behalf of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group [3] and launched in Parliament today (18th July) at a joint event between the APPG on Baby Loss [4] and the APPG on Smoking and Health [5].

The report provides an analysis of the training that midwives and obstetricians receive to address smoking in pregnant women, and what further training is needed. Smoking is a major cause of stillbirth and sudden infant death, and also leads to more babies being born with health problems and with a low birth weight.

Evidence shows that short and straightforward conversations with midwives and doctors can increase the chances of a woman accessing services that will help her to quit.

However, while staff are being taught about the harms from smoking in pregnancy, training on how to communicate this to women, how to use basic equipment such as carbon monoxide monitors, and how to provide short effective advice to women is not being provided consistently around the country.

Report author Dr Misha Moore, a doctor in both Public Health and Obstetrics, who wrote the report for ASH, said: “Throughout this process, people would tell me the importance of reducing smoking in pregnancy ‘goes without saying’. But leaving things unsaid appears to be just the problem. The majority of staff are clear on the risks of smoking, but not all are quite so clear on how they could help women to stop. Simple, low cost, training delivered by every Trust in the country could go a long way to addressing this issue.”

Francine Bates, Chief Executive of the Lullaby Trust and co-chair of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group said: “Tragically smoking causes ill health and death among babies in this country every day. We know that pregnant women listen to their midwife and their obstetrician. With the right training, they could make a big difference to the number of women smoking in pregnancy.”

Will Quince MP, co-chair of the APPG on Baby Loss, said: “Undergraduates must not leave midwifery and medical schools simply with knowledge on harms from smoking. They need practical skills so their interaction with a woman who smokes actually helps her to quit. These must not only be taught but be tested too.”

Antoinette Sandbach MP, co-chair of the APPG on Baby Loss, said: “Smoking is an addiction and it can be very hard to give up without the right support. Health professionals need to be sensitive and non-judgemental in the ways they encourage women to give up smoking. Building this into training and professional development is vital.”

The report also highlights that training of maternity staff is not enough on its own. There has to be co-ordination with the local services that help women to quit smoking.

Bob Blackman MP, Chair of the APPG on Smoking and Health said: “Stop smoking support is incredibly cost effective. Every local area needs to find a way of maintaining these vital services, particularly for pregnant women.”


Notes and Links:

Members of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group are available for interview and for more information and an ISDN line available for interviews. Please contact ASH on 020 7404 0242 or out of hours Hazel Cheeseman on 07754 358 593.

The full report is available here, and the executive summary is here.


[1] Smokefree Skills: a review of maternity workforce training is published by ASH on behalf of the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group. For a copy of the executive summary and full report please contact ASH: 020 7404 0242

[2] Action on Smoking and Health is a health charity working to eliminate the harm caused by tobacco use. You can find more information here. ASH co-ordinates the Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group.

ASH receives funding for its programme of work from Cancer Research UK and the British Heart Foundation.

[3] The Smoking in Pregnancy Challenge Group was founded in 2012 in response to a challenge by the then Public Health Minister to identify means to reduce rates of smoking in pregnancy. It is a coalition of public health organisations, baby charities and medical royal colleges, co-ordinated by ASH.

[4] The All Party Parliamentary Group on Baby Loss is co-chaired by Antoinette Sandbach MP and Will Quince MP. The secretariat is provided by The Lullaby Trust. The APPG’s overall aims are to develop policy that supports families dealing with the grief and loss of a baby, and to raise awareness of what more can be done by the government, Parliament or other agencies to help those affected. You can learn more about the APPG here.

[5] The All Party Parliamentary Group on Smoking and Health is chaired by Bob Blackman MP. The secretariat is provided by ASH. The purpose of the APPG is to monitor and discuss the health and social effects of smoking; to review potential changes in existing legislation to reduce levels of smoking; to assess the latest medical techniques to assist in smoking cessation; and to act as a resource for the group’s members on all issues relating to smoking and public health. You can learn more about the APPG here.