Specialist stop smoking service helps mums-to-be give babies best start in life

Published: 12 August 2022

A specialist NHS service in the South West is already helping nearly 50 mums-to-be to quit smoking just two months after it began.

Since the new Treating Tobacco Dependency Service was launched by Torbay and South Devon NHS Maternity Services in June, 46 pregnant women and birthing people, have sought support for the service through their midwives.

The two-strong team for the service is Katie Aston, Smoke Free Pregnancy Support Worker and, and Hannah O’Sullivan, Public Health Midwife.

They provide advice and support to help pregnant people quit smoking such as using nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), e-cigarettes and behavioural support, and electronic checks to test their exposure to carbon monoxide, which is a harmful chemical present in cigarette smoke.

Smoking in pregnancy carries serious health risks. Carbon monoxide in tobacco smoke reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the placenta and baby, which can lead to women going into labour early as well as increasing the chance of miscarriage, stillbirth and sudden infant death.

Sadie, 28 from Torquay, is 13 weeks pregnant, and said the motivation, support and belief she can quit from the service has really helped her on her journey to give her unborn child the best start in life.

“I am very happy and proud of myself”, she added.

Keelie, 33, from Newton Abbot, has been smoking since she was 13 years old and is 14 weeks pregnant.

She said: “I have tried to quit before but not got this far being smoke free, the communication and support weekly has really helped and being able to do it with my partner.

“I’d say to other mums-to-be to give it a try and don’t side line it  – it really helps you to achieve your goal.”

Sophie, 27, also from Newton Abbot, is in the final stages of her pregnancy, and said: “Having the support is the main key, someone checking in on me and not judging me; Katie has been amazing.

“I feel very good and relieved to have quit smoking.”

Smoke Free Pregnancy Support Worker Katie said: “The best part of the service is being able to help pregnant women and birthing people straight away and offer NRT there and then. Personally, the most enjoyable and rewarding part of my work is meeting and helping those who wouldn’t normally either use traditional stop smoking services or have not thought about quitting and supporting them to succeed.”

She added that building relationships with consultants and sonographers to encourage smokers who had declined support previously had been “massively successful and rewarding.”

Jo Bassett, Head of Midwifery at Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our maternity services work hard to update and improve the support that we offer and we are reaching more women, birthing people and families than ever before. This service will enable us to build on this great work and provide a tailored service to help pregnant women and birthing people take their first steps towards a smoke free pregnancy.”

Plans for expanding the service also include rolling it out throughout pregnancies and working with health visitors so that those teams can continue to offer support once the baby is born.