Pregnancy a 'missed opportunity' for GPs to help smokers quit, say researchers

GPs and other health professionals are 'missing opportunities' to prescribe NRT to pregnant women who smoke, with just one in 10 receiving the treatment, according to a UK study.

GPs are urged to offer NRT to pregnant women who smoke (Photo: SPL)
GPs are urged to offer NRT to pregnant women who smoke (Photo: SPL)

Researchers from the University of Nottingham found just one in ten pregnant smokers were prescribed NRT, despite the treatment being considered less harmful than smoking.

Research published in the British Journal of General Practice analysed how many women were prescribed NRT during pregnancy and in the nine months before and after.

The study, which ran from 2001 to 2012, tracked 388,142 pregnancies, of which there were 71,685 smokers (18.5%). Just 11% of smokers were prescribed NRT, which researchers said represented ‘missed opportunities’ to prevent harm to the majority of smoking mothers and their developing foetuses.

In the periods before and after pregnancy, only half of this number (5%) were prescribed NRT.

Women tend to be more receptive to smoking cessation interventions during their pregnancy, the researchers said. Meetings between health professionals and pregnant women should therefore be ‘an opportunity to discuss and offer interventions to promote smoking cessation’, they added.

Treatment too short

The study also showed that NRT was prescribed to pregnant women for an average of only two weeks, a timeframe which is ‘unlikely to be effective’ considering a period of eight to 12 weeks is recommended for the treatment to have any effect.

The researchers said: ‘The present study findings give insight into NRT prescribing in and around pregnancy, which is important for policy-makers and GPs to monitor and promote smoking cessation in females of childbearing age.’

They added that more should also be done to help women of child-bearing age quit smoking before they become pregnant, which would yield greater benefits and should be a ‘prioritised focus’ for healthcare providers.

NHS figures show that 26% of mothers in the UK smoked at some point just before or during their pregnancy, and 12% continued to smoke throughout.

Have you registered with us yet?

Register now to enjoy more articles and free email bulletins

Register

Already registered?

Sign in

Follow Us:

Just published

GP at Hand should only be allowed to provide NHS 111 services, says BMA

GP at Hand should only be allowed to provide NHS 111 services, says BMA

Babylon GP at Hand should no longer be allowed to register patients and instead be...

A financial guide for GP locums

A financial guide for GP locums

Medical accountant Jenny Stone provides a guide to pensions, setting your fees and...

Paying tax as a GP locum

Paying tax as a GP locum

Medical accountant Jenny Stone explains how you pay your tax as a GP locum.

DNA testing could be part of NHS health checks under government plans

DNA testing could be part of NHS health checks under government plans

The DHSC has launched a review of NHS health checks, with a view to introducing a...

Most GPs now see locum work as most attractive career option, poll reveals

Most GPs now see locum work as most attractive career option, poll reveals

More than half of GPs now believe locum work is the most attractive career option...

Patients in deprived areas find it harder to get GP appointments

Patients in deprived areas find it harder to get GP appointments

Three out of five people living in the most deprived areas in England find it difficult...