SWINDON has a higher than average percentage of pregnant women who are smokers at the time of giving birth.

New figures published this week show that 14.5 per cent of women in the town are still lighting up during their pregnancy, despite the serious health problems it can cause to babies.

Nationally, 12.7 per cent of mothers giving birth were smokers for the first quarter of 2012/13, which was lower than the 2011/12 outturn of 13.2 per cent.

The figures vary dramatically amongst all Strategic Health Authorities from 19.6 per cent in the North East SHA to 5.6 per cent in London SHA.

Among 147 primary care trusts smoking prevalence at delivery ranged from 27.6 per cent in Blackpool PCT to 1.2 per cent in Kensington and Chelsea PCT.

A spokesman for the NHS Information Centre said: “Babies from deprived backgrounds are more likely to be born to mothers who smoke, and to have much greater exposure to secondhand smoke in childhood.

“Smoking remains one of the few modifiable risk factors in pregnancy.

“It can cause a range of serious health problems, including lower birth weight, pre-term birth, placental complications and perinatal mortality.”

In Swindon, where nearly three out of 20 pregnant women continue to smoke, a new Stop Before you Drop service has been launched that helps pregnant women in the town who want to stop smoking.

Lisa Fendall, who was featured recently in the BBC series Mums Behaving Badly, launched the new service in Swindon, and highlighted the risks of low weight, weak babies, as a result of smoking in pregnancy, and the importance of supporting pregnant women to quit smoking.

Cherry Jones,the deputy director of public health for NHS Swindon said: “This new service provides a great opportunity for pregnant women to meet others in a similar situation.

“Stopping smoking is the single most important thing anyone can do to improve their health, and for a pregnant women there is also the health of her baby.’’ Each Thursday, there is a dedicated Stop Before You Drop group at the John Moulton Hall, in Penhill , from 10.30am to 11.30am.

It is just for pregnant women who want to quit smoking, and provides an opportunity for them to talk to other pregnant women who are also trying to stop, as well as having a trained stop smoking advisor available to offer support and advice.

Women can either turn up on the day or call 0800 389 2229 for more information.