An audit of smoking cessation services at the country’s 19 maternity units by medical researchers found wide variations in practices between hospitals.
The study, published in the Irish Medical Journal, concluded smoking cessation services were inadequate compared to national and international recommendations.
One of the authors, Ciara Reynolds of the UCD Centre for Human Reproduction and the Coombe maternity hospital in Dublin, said services should be implemented in a standardised way.
“Collection of smoking status and cessation advice was often explored only at the first antenatal visit,” said Dr Reynolds.
The authors said improved support services should be prioritised as it is recognised that stopping smoking in the first half of a pregnancy reduces the risk of birth complications. Maternal smoking is regarded as an important modifiable risk factor for adverse pregnancy outcomes and is linked to an increased risk of miscarriage, pre-term delivery, low birthweight and stillbirth. It increases the risk of sudden infant death syndrome after birth.
Around 11% of Irish women continue to smoke while pregnant, while 17% of pregnant women who quit smoking before their first antenatal visit relapse by the end of their pregnancy.
“In our audit, ‘recently quit’ smokers were not being identified and did not receive the advice or support they require to maintain abstinence,” said Dr Reynolds.
The national maternity strategy published in January 2016 recommended that all maternity units should have tobacco-free campuses as well as provide smoking cessation advice through trained professionals. The WHO recommends all pregnant women should be asked at every antenatal care visit about their past and present tobacco use as well as exposure to second-hand smoke.
Three of the 19 units did not ask expectant mothers on their first hospital visit if they wished to quit smoking during their pregnancy and only five reported routinely revisiting the smoking status of the patient later during the pregnancy.