MORE than 300 women are still smoking while pregnant, the latest figures from Public Health England have shown.

The data was published today to mark No Smoking Day today in a bid to encourage more mums to stub out the habit.

The figures show that more than 5,000 women in the South West smoked during their pregnancy in 2016/17, making up around 11 percent of all pregnant women across the region.

The national Tobacco Control Plan for England has set a target to reduce the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy to six per cent or lower by 2022.

Smoking in pregnancy increases the risk of a premature birth, sudden infant death syndrome, Asthma, diabetes and heart complications.

In Swindon there were 318 mothers smoking while pregnant last year, making up 11.5 per cent of pregnant mothers - slightly above the regional average. In Wiltshire there were 432 mums, which was 9.7 per cent.

Overall figures for the region have been steadily declining in recent years, from 13.5 per cent in 2010/11 down to 11.3 per cent in 2016/17.

Public Health England believes that much of this progress is down to the role that midwives play in having conversations with women early in their pregnancies, and offering them help and support to quit.

Sallyann Batstone, a smoking cessation midwife, said: “As midwives it is part of our public health role to inform and educate women and their families about the risks of smoking in pregnancy, for them and their unborn baby. The risks of miscarriage, stillbirth, premature birth, low birth weight, and neonatal death rise significantly if women and their partners smoke.

“It is important to talk about this early in pregnancy as we know if women quit before 15 weeks the risks are reduced to almost that of a non-smoker. The longer term effects of smoking on the unborn baby include respiratory problems, as well as behavioural problems, such as ADHD and poorer performance at school. Smoking can affect many generations in a family."

Rosanne Sodzi, Public Health England, health and wellbeing programme manager, said:

“Smoking in pregnancy can harm the baby in the womb from day one, so stopping smoking is one of the best things a women can do to protect the health of their baby through pregnancy and beyond. It’s important that all health professionals who come into contact with pregnant mums and their families warn parents of the risks and offer consistent support and encouragement to help mums stop smoking both during pregnancy and after the birth.”