Report reveals fewer Tasmanian mums smoking while pregnant

An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report released this month has revealed 16 per cent of Tasmanian mothers smoked during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

The Australia’s mothers and babies 2014- in brief report showed 307,844 women gave birth in Australia in 2014 and 312,548 babies were born.

One in nine of those women smoked “at some time” during their pregnancy with young mothers under the age of 20 and those living in remote and very remote areas “more likely” to smoke. 

While 11 per cent of women smoked within the first five months, one in five did not continue smoking throughout the remainder of their pregnancy.

Babies whose mothers smoked during pregnancy were more likely to be underweight and Tasmania was reported as having the second highest rate of low birthweight in the country with 7.7 per cent of babies born under 2.5 kilograms.

Female babies, twins and other multiple births and those born in public hospitals were also more likely to be born underweight, according to the report.

Since 2005 the number of Tasmanian women smoking during pregnancy has declined from 27 per cent.

However Health Minister Michael Ferguson said it was still a serious health issue.

“Smoking is not just harmful to the mother, it can be extremely harmful to an unborn baby,” he said.

“We want pregnant women to understand the risks they are exposing their baby to, as well as the risk to their own health.”

The State Government released its Healthy Tasmania Five Year Strategic Plan in July, which includes education around the dangers of smoking while pregnant.

“[The plan] contains specific measures … including working with GPs, pharmacists, antenatal staff and midwives to better support women to quit smoking before they conceive or at the earliest stage of pregnancy,” Mr Ferguson said.

The AIHW report also revealed almost half of mothers in 2014 were considered overweight or obese.