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Midwives are superstars in referring women to quit smoking

Waikato Hospital midwives Fiona Herman and Dawn McHugh

Photo: Waikato Hospital midwives Fiona Hermann and Dawn McHugh. 

Fiona Hermann, Dawn McHugh (Waikato Hospital) and Christine McMillan (Tokoroa) are midwives who refer more pregnant women to quit smoking services than anyone else in the Waikato.

So what’s their secret?  Fiona says it is important to find out why a woman smokes and what might be a “light-bulb” moment for that woman to think about quitting.

While the obvious motive might the health of her baby, the pull of nicotine and the strength of ingrained habits make it very hard for many women to see a way out.

For these midwives, it is the one-on-one conversations that work best, when they get to know a woman, why and how she smokes and, if she is open to quitting, what might tip her decision in the right direction.

The trigger to making a commitment to quit can vary. “I’ve had women who respond really well to being given a nicotine replacement therapy inhalator because it is similar to the action of smoking a cigarette which they are so used to,” says Fiona. “Other women only realise the damage smoking is doing to them when they take a simple CO monitor test and see it for themselves. For others, monetary incentives for giving up are a big help.”

Waikato DHB calls Fiona, Dawn and Christine “superstars” – and recently recognised their work with pregnant women who smoke. However they see it more as luck. “It can come in runs where you get a whole lot of women who are ready to take the next step, then others who just don’t want to know. Maybe we’ve just been lucky!”

Ruth Galvin, manager of the Waikato Maternity Quality and Safety Programme, says the maternal smoking rate in Waikato is one of the highest in New Zealand (at 17.1%) and has not been reducing.

“We have had low numbers of referrals to stop smoking services by health professionals, and a low rate of amongst pregnant women accepting a referral and setting a date to quit.”

A turning point is the introduction of a new coordinated Waikato stop smoking service provider – “Once and For All”. Once a referral goes through to “Once and For All” they will contact the women and make arrangements for an appointment with an advisor local to them.  This may be a nurse in a local GP practice, or a qualified stop smoking advisor who will meet them in their community or home, or a Maori health provider. The women will then be on the path to a smokefree pregnancy and motherhood.

Women can also contact Once and For All direct. Once and For All offers an incentive scheme for all pregnant women who smoke. This includes $50 voucher for setting a quit date and $250 voucher if they are confirmed by CO monitor as smoke free at the end of their course.

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