ALMOST one third of women in a West Yorkshire town are smoking during pregnancy – and some continue the habit in order to keep their baby’s weight low for an easier delivery.
A health report reveals that 32 per cent of white women in Dewsbury smoked while pregnant and 26 per cent of white women in Batley kept smoking.
Nationally the figure is around 12 per cent.
And shockingly some of the women smokers do not see their nicotine habit as a problem during pregnancy, according to health bosses.
Nicky Hoyle, a consultant in public health for the Kirklees area, said that some women had revealed in a survey of attitudes two years ago that having a low birth weight baby could be considered to be a good thing.
They had told researchers that they did not see having a low birth weight baby as a problem as it “can be perceived as something to desire as it’s easier to deliver”.
Some younger women had smoked in order to keep their own weight down and others had expressed the view that smoking while pregnant would also keep down the weight of their unborn baby, she said.
Ms Hoyle said it was not known why the figures for smoking in pregnancy were quite so high for Dewsbury, although it was recognised that smoking was an addiction and becoming pregnant was a stressful and life-changing period.
The annual 2013 health report to Kirklees Council, called a Joint Strategic Needs Assessment, says that infant deaths are reducing across Kirklees but remain high in both Dewsbury and Batley.
These high levels of infant deaths reflect levels of smoking in pregnancy and the proportion of congenital abnormalities due to genetic closeness of some parents.
The report says: “Smoking during pregnancy significantly influenced the health of the unborn child, including contributing to low birth weight and can increase the risk of asthma in childhood 4-6 times.”
Health officials are working to reduce smoking during pregnancy and there is specialist stop-smoking help available.
The report concludes: “Smoking remains stubbornly high in people on low incomes and women, with women and older people being least likely to want to give up.”