Smoking and obesity linked to stillbirths

00:00, Jun 18 2014

A report highlighting the link between smoking, obesity and stillbirths confirms the importance of mothers staying healthy, Manawatu experts say.

National maternity data revealed in the Perinatal and Maternal Mortality Review Committee's annual report shows clear links between smoking and stillbirth, and stillbirth and overweight mothers.

Te Ohu Auahi Mutunga (TOAM) smoking cessation team leader Fay Selby-Law said the information was something health professionals had known for a long time but women still needed to be educated.

"Our target [is for] pregnant women to quit smoking as early as possible in pregnancy," Selby-Law said. "We talk in New Zealand about how important our babies are, and that begins in pregnancy and before pregnancy."

PMMRC chairwoman Sue Belgrave said the findings showed how critical it was to ensure pregnant women received as much help and support as possible to quit smoking and that they had a healthy weight both before and during pregnancy.

Selby-Law agreed that every effort needed to be made to educate women on the link between smoking and stillbirth.


"I don't think it becomes real until mothers know a baby that has died and they can see the connection between smoking and pregnancy."

TOAM had recently secured funding to hire a midwife, which would help the organisation understand the link between midwives and mothers and provide better smoking cessation care, she said.

MidCentral District Health Board midwifery adviser Cheryl Benn said the links were something healthcare professionals had been working to address in different ways but there needed to be a whole community effort.

"We really need to be working with women during pregnancy, and those planning pregnancy, on what makes a difference," she said. "Babies don't have to die or be sick if you start care way back at the beginning."

The DHB's "5 in 10" imitative highlighted five things women should do in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy.

"Linking with us early on helps move women towards quitting smoking and going into pregnancy at a good weight, finding a lead carer and getting screening for diabetes," Benn said.

"If we can get women to quit smoking by 16 weeks or before, then there are huge gains for the baby. Sooner is better than later."

Encouraging family and friends around pregnant women to stop smoking was also important, she said.

The PMMRC report, which takes data from lead maternity carers and public hospitals, also showed that women of Indian ethnicity and women having their first baby were at higher risk of stillbirth.

The report found there were 10 maternal deaths in 2012.

Two deaths were due to pregnancy complications and eight were related to pre-existing diseases or suicide.

The maternal mortality rate - the death of a mother while pregnant or up to six weeks after birth - was 16 women in every 100,000 pregnancies. .

The perinatal mortality rate - the death of a baby from 20 weeks gestation up to 28 days after birth - was 10.7/1000 births.

The PMMRC is responsible for reviewing maternal deaths and all deaths of babies from 20 weeks gestation up to 28 days after birth, or weighing at least 400 grams if gestation is unknown.

To read the full report visit

Manawatu Standard