Many factors lead to infants being born under their ideal weight.
Many factors lead to infants being born under their ideal weight. Perboge/iStock

Smoking mums put Southern Downs babies at risk

DESPITE years of cigarette health warnings, local mothers are still putting their babies at risk.

One in five Southern Downs women smoke during pregnancy.

Analysis of national health data for 2012-14 also shows about 6.9 per cent of local babies are born below the optimum birthweight.

About 67.4 per cent of Warwick mums breastfeed.

Experts say smoking while pregnant can lead to low birthweights and potentially fatal complications for the baby.

"Smoking causes a reduction in the blood oxygen to the fetus, the nicotine can induce early labour and the poison in cigarettes can interfere with the fetus's metabolism," University of Queensland women's health researcher Gita Mishra said.

Professor Mishra said obesity could also have a major impact on unborn infants.

"We know that around 50 per cent of women of reproductive age are overweight or obese and that has been shown to lead to low birthweights," she said.

"Studies show that underweight babies are at higher risk of getting asthma, they have slower physical, social and cognitive development - they end up with additional challenges in life."

Darling Downs Hospital and Health Service Close the Gap pharmacist Joh Bou-Samr said local women were supported to give up smoking.

"Darling Downs Health has a number of initiatives aimed at helping patients and visitors to our hospital reduce or quit smoking," Ms Bou-Samr said.

"This includes our perinatal health program which comprises the screening for smoking in expectant mothers, the use of a clinical pathway to help stop smoking, and referral to Quitline for free nicotine replacement therapy.

"There are also specific programs targeted at the Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander community."

Queensland Health spent $5million on anti-smoking programs across the state last year, including $214,400 on Quit for Baby, which is designed to reduce female smoking rates.

Smoking kills 40 adults a day in Australia.

"Every cigarette smoked has an immediate and negative effect on both the woman and her baby," a QH spokesperson said.

"There is no safe level of smoking during pregnancy.

"There is no better time to stop smoking than when you are pregnant or thinking of starting a family." - NewsRegional  

HOW WE COMPARE

Region, % low birth weight, % women who smoke during pregnancy

Bundaberg, 7.4, 22.4

Cairns, 7.1, 19.1

Fraser Coast, 7.2, 24.5

Gympie, 5.5, 24.4

Gladstone, 5.4, 16.1

Gold Coast, 6.3, 10.7

Ipswich, 6.3, 20.0

Mackay, 5.4, 14.7

Rockhampton, 6.7, 20.1

Southern Downs, 6.9, 20.9

Sunshine Coast, 5.7, 11.2

Toowoomba, 6.9, 15.3

Townsville, 6.7, 12

BRISBANE, 6.2, 5.5

QUEENSLAND, 6.5, 14.2

AUSTRALIA, 6.1, 12.3

Source: PHIDU Social Health Atlas of Australia