Smoking in pregnancy

How has the percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy changed over time?

Indicator

Last updated: 26/02/2019

Effective clinical care
Primary and community care Hospital care Public health Children and young people

Background

There is extensive evidence showing that smoking during pregnancy can have devastating consequences for mothers and their babies. Smoking while pregnant has been associated with a number of adverse outcomes including stillbirth, preterm birth and low birth weight. In July 2017, the Department of Health introduced a target to reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy to 6% or less by the end of 2022.


How has the percentage of women who are known to be smokers at the time of delivery changed over time? 27/02/2019

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The percentage of women who are known to be smokers at the time of delivery has been decreasing over time. In 2006/07, 15.8% of women were smokers at the time of delivery and this decreased to 10.7% in 2016/17. Despite this decrease in prevalence, the reduction in smoking rates among pregnant women has slowed with a percentage decrease of only 0.3% in 2016/17 and a percentage increase of 0.1% in 2017/18. This has prompted concern from health charities.

The previous target to reduce the percentage of women who smoke during pregnancy to 11% or less by the end of 2015 was met, and in July 2017 a new target was set to reduce the prevalence to 6% or less by the end of 2022. This is part of the Department of Health's Towards a Smokefree Generation tobacco control plan for England.

Provisional data for the first half of 2018/19 shows that the percentage of pregnant women who smoke will continue to decrease to around 10.5%. However, if the 6% target is to be met the rate of decline will have to increase considerably in the coming years.

About this data

This indicator uses data from NHS Digital's statistics on women's smoking status at time of delivery for England. The percentage calculation for women who were known to be smokers at time of delivery previously included women with an unknown smoking status in the denominator i.e. the total number of maternities. This meant that women with an unknown smoking status were being treated the same way as non-smokers. Thus poor data quality (i.e. having a lot of unknowns) could have masked poor performance.

From April 2017, the methodology used to calculate the proportion of women smoking at the time of delivery changed to exclude women with an unknown smoking status from the denominator. Therefore, the percentage calculation for smokers/non-smokers excludes women with an unknown smoking status. Data for all years was recalculated to use this new definition.

Percentage of mothers smoking at the time of delivery (excluding unknowns) = 100 x number of mothers recorded as smoking at time of delivery / (number of mothers recorded as smoking at time of delivery + number of mothers recorded as not smoking at time of delivery).

Women known to be smokers at the time of delivery are defined as pregnant women who reported smoking (at all) at the time of delivery. Women known to be non-smokers at the time of delivery are defined as pregnant women who reported smoking no cigarettes (at all) at the time of delivery. Women whose smoking status was not known at the time of delivery are defined as those whose smoking status was not determined at the time of delivery for whatever reason. For more information, please see NHS Digital's appendices.

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