Many factors lead to infants being born under their ideal weight.
Many factors lead to infants being born under their ideal weight. Perboge/iStock

Smoking mums put Northern Rivers babies at risk

DESPITE years of cigarette health warnings, local mothers are still putting their babies at risk.

About one in six Northern Rivers women smoke during pregnancy except for Byron where it is about one in 14.

Analysis of national health data for 2012-14 also shows about 5 per cent of local babies are born below the optimum birthweight.

About 60 per cent of Lismore mums breastfeed.  

Experts say smoking while pregnant can lead to low birthweights and potentially fatal complications for the baby.

"Smoking causes a reduction in the blood oxygen to the fetus, the nicotine can induce early labour and the poison in cigarettes can interfere with the fetus's metabolism," University of Queensland women's health researcher Gita Mishra said.

Professor Mishra said obesity could also have a major impact on unborn infants.

"We know that around 50 per cent of women of reproductive age are overweight or obese and that has been shown to lead to low birthweights," she said.

"Studies show that underweight babies are at higher risk of getting asthma, they have slower physical, social and cognitive development - they end up with additional challenges in life."

Northern NSW Local Health District acting chief executive Lynne Weir said local women were supported to give up smoking and rates were declining across the Northern Rivers.

"Addressing smoking in pregnancy is a NSW Health priority," she said.

"All pregnant women are screened for their smoking behaviour at the commencement of their care.

"Women are offered support and follow-up arrangements, depending on their situation."

Smoking kills 40 adults a day in Australia. - NewsRegional  

HOW WE COMPARE

Region, % low birth weight, % women who smoke during pregnancy

Ballina, 4.9, 11.9

Byron, 3.8, 7.3

Clarence Valley, 5.6, 20.2

Kyogle, 5.8, 20.5

Lismore, 5.3, 17.7

Richmond Valley, 7.0, 26.4

Greater Sydney, 5.2, 6.4

NSW, 5.2, 9.8

AUSTRALIA, 6.1, 12.3

Source: PHIDU Social Health Atlas of Australia