Written by Editorial Team, DonateToday
Published: Monday, 12th March 2018

When this mum-to-be needed a support system to help kick her smoking habit for good, this charity helped Samantha towards a smokefree pregnancy

This mum-to-be knew she needed a support system to help her kick her smoking habit for good – so this charity helped Samantha on her journey to a smokefree pregnancy

When Samantha Paul of Bridgend discovered that she was pregnant, she knew she had to stop smoking for her unborn child. She initially worried that she wouldn't be strong enough to quit, especially with a partner who smoked. Thankfully, with help from a project supported by charity ASH Wales, she was able to kick the habit for good.

Exposure to Harm

Each year, 11,864 unborn babies are exposed to the dangerous harms of tobacco in Wales.

The health risks to both mum and baby caused by smoking during pregnancy are more widely known than ever before, yet still remain shocking.

Rates of stillbirth, cot death, premature birth, miscarriage, and mental health disorders can all be increased by doing so. Yet still, many mums continue the habit into pregnancy.

Research shows that many pregnant smokers, particularly in more deprived areas of Wales, may be put off by the thought of formal meetings for the fear of being judged for their addiction.

This is why charity ASH Wales is providing more informal and engaging forms of support to young mums across the country.

Samantha Paul, from Bridgend, was one mum-to-be who was desperate to kick the habit for good when she learned that she was pregnant.

‘I was smoking between 10 and 20 a day and knew I had to give up,’ explains Samantha. ‘I thought, “Right – I’m not going to be able to do it on my own, and I can’t do it with my husband’s support, because he’s a smoker.”’ 

But Samantha was adamant – she had to quit smoking for good.

"In 2010, 16% of Welsh pregnant women who smoke continued to do so throughout their pregnancy."

- Public Health Wales

Reaching Out for Help

Samantha then decided to contact someone different to ask for their help: her midwife.

Luckily for Samantha, her midwife was taking part in a new initiative called MAMSS (Models for Access to Maternal Smoking Cessation Support). MAMSS was a Public Health Wales project which smokefree charity ASH Wales helped to develop, to provide a flexible and tailored service to pregnant women wanting to stop smoking for good.

Focussing around more personal meetings in antenatal clinics, and even the home setting, MAMSS aimed to help women feel as comfortable and confident as possible.

Samantha says her MAMSS nurse Julie was ‘brilliant help.’

Samantha (above) has kicked the habit with ASH Wales' help

‘I only thought smoking was going to stunt the baby’s growth,’ she explains. ‘But then when the midwife came round and she showed me all the chemicals that are in cigarettes and how much damage it can actually cause, it frightened me a lot. 

‘She really supported me through. She told me that we would set a date to quit and helped me to prepare all week for that day.

"A baby whose mum smoked is 25% more likely to die from cot death than a baby whose mum didn’t smoke."

- Smokefree Baby and Me

‘I got an inhaler and patch and within two days I’d quit and I haven’t smoked since.

‘The readings on the carbon monoxide monitor used to scare me because of what was going through to the baby – the reading was 18 before but is now down to 2,' says Samantha. 'Now, I can’t even stand the smell of smoke.’

Smokefree Baby and Me

Trained staff from ASH Wales who run the Smokefree Baby and Me project are on hand to speak to mums at events

All of the midwives who work with ASH Wales understand how difficult the journey to give up smoking can be for many women.

‘It is a challenge to support women to stop smoking in pregnancy,' explains Kate Evans, a Public Health Specialist Midwife for Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board. 'Firstly understanding why they smoke is important to tackle their smoking itself.’ 

‘For some women, it's the only decision they can make in their lives. It gives them release.

‘The importance thing is to make sure women feel supported whatever they decide to do, and not judged.’

Although the trial period for MAMSS is now over, ASH Wales’ role in delivering the project was crucial, suggests Kate.

‘ASH Wales have helped us immensely in our cessation work. They provide leaflets about the benefits of cessation and they also work with us to offer campaign days to show women the dangers of smoking in pregnancy.’ The two groups still continue to work together today.

ASH Wales' more recent ‘Smokefree Baby and Me’ campaign has now reached hundreds of people across Wales. Furthermore, the charity continues to work with local midwives to develop a permanent version of MAMSS for young and vulnerable pregnant women.

As for Samantha, she admits that ‘falling off the wagon’ will always be a fear of hers. 

However, she ends on a positive note, suggesting: ‘The midwives’ support helped me to quit, which is a really good thing. I would encourage other mums-to-be to just give it a go.’ 

To learn more about ASH Wales’ current ‘Smokefree Baby and Me’ project or to get help with quitting smoking, please click here for more information.