Two Brighton medical school experts are calling for better ways to help new mothers from taking up smoking after having given up during their pregnancy.
They made the call after an epidemiological study which is detailed in a research paper published in Nicotine and Tobacco Research.
Dr Memon said that 47 per cent of the 512 mothers in the study who had quit smoking during their pregnancy relapsed within six weeks of their babies being born.
He said, those living with another smoker were shown to be six times more likely to relapse.
About 23,000 pregnant women in England have used the NHS Stop Smoking Service this year. Dr Memon wants it to widen its counselling and support services not just to prospective new mothers but to those smokers who live with them.
He said that the research suggests that relapse rates could be reduced, improving health for the whole family and making the £85 million service more effective to the taxpayer.
The study, thought to be one of the largest on the subject, was based on an analysis of the Child Health Surveillance System (CHS) in the United Kingdom.
It showed that women who relapsed to smoking within a few weeks of delivery are more likely to
- live in deprived urban areas
- have two or more children
- live with other smokers
- have not breastfed their babies
In the study, continued smoking by a partner or another household member was the strongest risk factor for smoking relapse.
The implications of smoking relapse to the mothers’ health include increased risk of cancer, heart and lung diseases, adverse pregnancy outcomes and fertility problems.
Children exposed to second-hand smoke are at an increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), respiratory and middle ear infection, asthma, reduced lung function and meningitis.
Dr Memon said: “Preventing smoking relapse is an important public health issue because of the serious health consequences for mother and child.
“This research shows that women who are most vulnerable to relapse can be identified in the antenatal period as requiring extra support/counselling after the delivery to maintain a smoke-free status.
“While designing smoking cessation counselling and/or intervention services for pregnant women, it is important to take account of and involve other smokers in the household, to highlight their crucial role and support for the expectant mother in quitting and maintaining smoke-free status during the pregnancy and preventing relapse after delivery.
“These interventions may be more effective if they include strategies aimed at assisting other household members to give up smoking as well.”
Clare Harmer said: “It is suggested that breast feeding is a strong incentive not to relapse into smoking.
“But several factors such as the mother’s age, ethnicity, number of children, level of education, socioeconomic and marital status, smoking status (before and after delivery) are associated with the nature and duration of breast feeding.
“Therefore, more research is needed to determine the direction of association between breast feeding and smoking relapse.”
Dr Diana Grice, director of public health for East Sussex, said: “It is clear that there is more that we can and should do to protect the health of pregnant women and their children.
“Stopping smoking is one of the best things anyone can do to improve their health.
“This important research provides crucial insight into the factors which influence smoking during and after pregnancy and informs the actions all services can take to improve the health of pregnant women and their families.”