NESCI logo

This study aims to develop a supportive intervention to help women and their partners to either stop smoking, or to stay stopped from smoking (‘relapse prevention’), following the birth of a baby who spends time on a special care unit.

Approximately a quarter of women in the UK report smoking in the 12 months before pregnancy. Over half of these women manage to quit during pregnancy, but others struggle to quit or do not want to. Of those who quit, many re-start smoking again after their babies are born. This might especially be the case if the baby is premature or unwell, as it can be a very stressful time.

Cigarette smoking can severely affect the health of the mother, and the baby. Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death in adults, causing 80% of deaths from lung cancer and bronchitis. Babies exposed to ‘second hand smoke’ (passive smoking) have higher risks of cot death and suffering from breathing problems and ear infections. These risks are even higher for premature babies, who already have higher risks of infection and have very delicate lungs.

We have undertaken some background work reviewing the scientific evidence for ways we might help women and their families quit smoking while their babies are cared for on a special care unit. We have not found anything specifically to help families in the UK. Therefore, we want to work with women, their families and health professionals to specifically identify what approaches might best help women and their families to remain smoke free after their babies are born.

We will then gather the views of women, partners and health professionals in discussion groups, by having conversations, and by undertaking a survey. We are committed to working closely with people who will benefit from our work throughout the whole research process. Following this, we will apply for research funding to develop an ‘intervention’ to help women and their families to stop, and stay stopped, from smoking. The intervention may include medication, electronic cigarette use, specialist behavioural support, social support and incentives to remain smoke free. We will also explore ways to deliver the intervention. We will then test out the intervention in a research trial.

Contact us

For further information, or an informal, confidential conversation, please contact Professor Caitlin Notley, Project Lead (t: 01603 591275, e: Amy Nichols, Neonatal Research Nurse at Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital Neonatal Unit (t: 01603 646106, e: