THE number of women smoking during their pregnancy in the town has dropped to its lowest rate in the last decade, new figures have revealed.

New data shows that the smoking status of pregnant women at the time of delivery is now at 14.6 per cent - a 1.6 per cent drop from last year’s figure.

This rate is the lowest recorded in the town since 2011 and closes the gap to the regional average for Yorkshire and Humberside to just 0.6 per cent.

Since the previous lowest rate, the town’s gap to the national average has halved from 8.4 per cent to 4.2 per cent in this year’s figures.

One of the main reasons for the new figures, according to health bosses, is the team of four - two midwives and two maternity support workers - in the maternity stop-smoking team who are based in Barnsley Hospital’s antenatal clinic.

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All pregnant women who smoke are referred to the service so they are able to speak about the risks of smoking and the benefits of quitting - they can then make an informed decision about whether or not they want to quit smoking.

A 12-week programme of nicotine replacement is then offered to all, with regular therapy and contact throughout their pregnancy.

A spokesperson for Barnsley Council said: “The team created visual displays throughout the maternity department with information of the harmful effects of smoking and contact numbers to access support.

“In addition, the team have created QR code posters placed in family centres and GP clinics where women can self-refer to the service.

“During Stoptober ‘first aid kits’ containing stress relieving aids, distraction aids and motivational quotes were offered to aid a quit attempt.”

Smoking while pregnant has an extreme adverse effect on unborn babies, with every cigarette containing more than 4,000 chemicals and restricting the essential oxygen supply, meaning their heart must beat harder for every cigarette smoked.

Statistics show that stopping smoking in pregnancy will show immediate benefits for both the mum and the baby.

It reduces the risk of complications in pregnancy and in birth whilst also reducing the risk of still birth, according to health bosses.

Babies of smokers are also, on average, around 8oz lighter than other babies which can cause problems during and after labour and quitting smoking also reduces the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, also known as ‘cot death’.

Coun Jim Andrews, cabinet spokesperson for public health, speaking about the town’s figures being at the lowest rate in the last decade, said: “These figures are promising and show we are moving in a positive direction.

“We’re delighted to halve the gap between our average and the national average over the past decade, but we know there is still plenty more to be done as we aspire to make smoking invisible and create a smoke-free generation in Barnsley.

“There is plenty of support available in the local area, particularly from NHS Yorkshire Smokefree.

“I would encourage any resident who wants to quit smoking to get in touch with them if they need any help.”