1 in 10 mums-to-be smokes in pregnancy but new text service can help them quit for good

We all know cigarettes are bad for us, yet more than one in 10 women are still smoking during their ­pregnancy – harming their unborn child as well. So a new anonymous text service that could help mums-to-be quit strikes me as an excellent idea.

I was once a member of a working party helping pregnant women ditch cigarettes. At the time, they were the only group where smoking was on the rise. It’s easy to see why.

Those who are out of work have little money and no ‘me’ time so turn to smoking as their one pleasure.

We didn’t have a lot of success but researchers at East Anglia University might do better.

The text service they have ­developed is called MiQuit and it provides free support, sending helpful advice and information directly to their phones. It is currently being piloted in Norfolk, with hopes of taking it nationwide.

The support is tailored to each mum and their lifestyle, ensuring everyone who signs up gets the right help. It’s low cost, convenient and anonymous.

The service, which is the brainchild of experts at UEA and the University of Cambridge, is fully automated and user-initiated, so women can start using it without the need for any health professional involvement.

Mums who sign up to MiQuit from their phone receive texts asking ­questions about their habit and the answers are then used to tailor help. MiQuit designer Dr Felix Naughton, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Around 11% of UK women smoke throughout pregnancy and rates rise considerably with increasing social deprivation – exacerbating health inequalities.

Stopping smoking reduces the risk of stillbirth and complications during ­pregnancy and birth, so mums have a healthier pregnancy and a stronger baby. And it helps immediately.

Dr Naughton says: “Their baby is less likely to be born too early, and have to face the breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature, or be born with a low birth weight which can cause ­problems during and after labour. For example, they are more likely to have problems keeping warm and are more likely to get infections.

“Stopping smoking during ­pregnancy will also help a baby later in life. Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.”

Chancellor Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, says: “The results of this pilot being run in Norfolk may help the service be taken up across the country, helping many more people live healthier and happier lives.”