FREE nicotine replacement therapy and gift cards are among the incentives being used by Barnsley Hospital in a fresh effort to get pregnant women to quit smoking.

The scheme, run by the hospital in partnership with the council, will continue for the next 12 months to try and reduce the number of women smoking at the time of delivery.

More than 100 women who gave birth at the end of last year - more than one in ten of all pregnancies - were confirmed to be smokers, new figures revealed.

The statistics from NHS Digital show a rise in the proportion of mothers known to be smokers in the last three months of 2021, the most recent period for which figures are available.

Of 721 maternities recorded, 114 involved women who were smokers - 15.8 per cent.

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In the three-month period preceding this, there were 768 maternities, 96 of whom - 12.5 per cent - were smokers.

But overall figures for the year, which begins in April and is so far covered up to December in the latest statistics, indicate a slight downturn.

From April to December, 299 of 2,158 women - 13.9 per cent - were smokers, suggesting leaders’ attempts to tackle the issue are making positive strides.

In 2020/21, 388 of 2,736 mothers - 14.2 per cent - were smokers at the time of delivery, while in the year prior, 424 of 2,901 mothers - 14.6 per cent - smoked.

Walburgh Manhungira, public health specialist midwife for the hospital, said: “Barnsley’s maternity stop smoking team are well-established in offering treatment in pregnancy to help women quit smoking.

“Our approach is non-judgemental, supportive and inclusive of family members and partners.”

The new plans will attempt to meet the national average of 9.6 per cent, with Barnsley’s rate currently at 14.2 per cent.

Financial incentives will be used in the scheme, which have ‘strong evidence’ of being useful.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) recently said they were an effective way to help people quit, when used alongside specialist support.

Barnsley Hospital’s maternity stop smoking service will offer support, advice and nicotine replacement therapy for free to help pregnant women and their families who want to quit smoking.

Expecting mums could also receive up to £260 in Barnsley gift cards through the scheme as further incentives.

Julia Burrows, director of public health, added: “Through our maternity stop smoking service, we have supported women across our borough with the right support to go smoke-free for their pregnancy.

“Given the risks for both mother and baby by smoking in pregnancy, we’re excited to be building on this support with this new scheme.

“Studies have found financial incentives to be an effective approach to encouraging people to quit. I hope to see pregnant women across Barnsley taking part in this scheme to help give their baby a smoke-free start in life.”