Pregnancy smoking rates rise, and caesarians increase in the Hunter

Report: Ups and downs.
Report: Ups and downs.

THE number of pregnant Hunter women smoking up to 10 cigarettes a day in the second half of pregnancy has risen, but rates of heavier smoking have dropped, new figures show.

According to the latest NSW Mothers and Babies Report, the proportion of women in the state smoking at all during pregnancy has fallen from 10.4 per cent in 2012 to 8.3 per cent in 2016.

But in the Hunter, the number of women smoking between one and 10 cigarettes a day in the second half of pregnancy increased from 9.3 per cent in 2010 and 2015, to 9.6 per cent in 2016.

The report shows that 2.4 per cent of pregnant Hunter women smoked more than 10 cigarettes a day, a rate that had dropped from 2.8 per cent in 2015, and from 6.2 per cent in 2010.

Dr Michelle Cretikos, director of population health clinical quality and safety, said NSW Health offered a range of ways pregnant women could receive help and support, including through the NSW Quitline and the iCanQuit website –

“In 2017-18, the NSW Government invested $1.8 million through the Cancer Institute NSW to these two services, and $4.4 million to tobacco control measures,” she said. “NSW Health services support women to quit smoking before pregnancy and as early as possible in pregnancy, as this will substantially reduce the health risks to her unborn baby.”

The report also shows more women are having more elective caesarians, with rates rising from 17.1 per cent in 2015, to 18.5 per cent in 2016.

That rate had almost doubled since 1996, when 9.9 per cent of Hunter women had elective caesarians.

Normal vaginal births decreased from 60 per cent in 2015, to 58.6 per cent in 2016 – a drop from 71.7 per cent in 1996.

Across NSW, operative and instrumental births were more common among privately-insured mothers, where the rate of normal vaginal birth decreased from 45.3 per cent in 2012 to 44 per cent in 2016, and the caesarean section rate increased from 40.7 per cent to 42.1 per cent. 

The report showed the average age of mothers in NSW had increased slightly, from 30.3 years in 2012 to 30.6 years in 2016. The percentage of mothers aged 35 years and above had risen from 14.9 per cent in 1996 and 23.6 per cent in 2012, to 23.7 per cent in 2016.


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