Researchers at the University of East Anglia have helped develop a text messaging service to help pregnant women quit smoking and improve the health of their baby.
MiQuit provides free text message support for users, sending information and advice directly to their phone. The support is tailored to each user and their lifestyle, ensuring everyone who signs up get the support they need to quit.
The service has been developed by experts at UEA and the University of Cambridge, and has now been commissioned by Norfolk County Council’s Public Health team.
Users can sign up for the MiQuit service from their mobile phone, and they will receive a series of text messages asking questions about their smoking. Answers to these questions will be used to tailor the text message support provided, giving users the advice they need.
MiQuit designer Dr Felix Naughton, from UEA’s School of Health Sciences, said: “Around 11 per cent of UK women smoke throughout pregnancy and rates rise considerably with increasing social deprivation, exacerbating health inequalities.
“Stopping smoking during pregnancy helps both mother and baby immediately.
“When an expectant mother stops smoking, they will reduce the risk of complications in pregnancy and birth, they are more likely to have a healthier pregnancy and a healthier baby, and they reduce the risk of stillbirth.
“Their baby is also less likely to be born too early, and have to face the breathing, feeding and health problems that often go with being premature, or be born with a low birth weight which can cause problems during and after labour. For example, they are more likely to have problems keeping warm and are more likely to get infections.
“They will reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), also known as ‘cot death’.
“Stopping smoking during pregnancy will also help a baby later in life,” he added. “Children whose parents smoke are more likely to suffer from asthma and other serious illnesses that may need hospital treatment.”
“We know that most pregnant smokers want to quit. And our previous research has shown that text-message support is particularly helpful because it is low cost, convenient, anonymous and has the potential to reach a wide range of people because almost everyone has access to a mobile phone.
“It is fully-automated and user-initiated, so women can start using it without the need for any health professional involvement.”
Health care professionals including midwives, assistant midwives and health visitors will be provided with information about MiQuit by Norfolk’s Healthy Lifestyles team.
Chancellor Bill Borrett, Norfolk County Council’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, said: “Smoking during pregnancy can have a major impact on a baby: it’s no exaggeration to say that quitting smoking will improve your child’s health not just at birth, but throughout their life.
“This new service aims to get tailored advice straight into the phones of people who need support in quitting, and the results of this pilot being run in Norfolk may help the service be taken up across the country, helping many more people live healthier, happier lives.”
The development of the MiQuit text message service for pregnant women has been funded by Cancer Research UK and the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR). It was developed by experts at the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia. The service is being piloted by Norfolk County Council and the University of East Anglia, funded by Norfolk County Council.
Further information of the impact of smoking during pregnancy can be found online on Just One Norfolk.