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Free nicotine patches for pregnant women could reduce stillbirth rates

Smoking while pregnant more than doubles the risk of stillbirth, according to studies.

Now a backbench TD is mounting a campaign for health funding so that pregnant women can get free nicotine patches to help protect them and their unborn babies from smoking related harm.

Fine Gael Deputy Catherine Byrne pointed to the landmark study 'Growing up in Ireland' published last week, which showed that one in 10 women continue to smoke through to full term.

The most serious complications of smoking while pregnant include increased risk of stillbirth, premature delivery, and low birth weight.

The main problem is that nicotine and carbon monoxide work together to reduce the baby's supply of oxygen.

Deputy Byrne said nicotine patches for pregnant women would help protect mothers and their babies.

"We must examine the possibility of making low dose nicotine replacement therapy patches (NRT) available under GP supervision for free. This already happens in the UK, where they are freely available to pregnant women on the NHS.

"While it may be preferable for expectant mothers to try other routes to quitting smoking, I believe the provision of NRT would be a good investment in the health of babies and their mothers as an alternative to women smoking right through their pregnancies," she said.

New family room for Mercy in Cork

A secondary school student with a flair for design has helped build a new family room attached to the children's ward at the Mercy Hospital in Cork.

The ward is used for leukaemia and cancer patients and has been in existence since the 1970s, but there has never been a family room - until now.

The ward facilitates children up to 16 years old mainly from Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Waterford. It's the only independent facility of its type outside Crumlin in Dublin. Children go to Crumlin first, but can then be transferred to Cork to be closer to home.

The family room was previously a storeroom for equipment. Sofa retailers DFS sponsored the renovation and approached Optimise Design to design the space. They worked with talented Gaisce award winner Emma O'Callaghan, a fifth-year student from Mallow, to work on design.

Kennedy named Coach of the Year

Pat Kennedy, the well-known business executive and personal coach, has been named Coach of the Year by the 25,000 member International Coach Federation. The awards were sponsored by the Irish Management Institute.

Festival of Trad down by the Lee

Gradam Ceoil TG4, the national traditional music awards ceremony, is returning to Cork after more than 10 years, and will be broadcast live for the very first time from the Cork Opera House on February 22nd. Daithi O Se and Aoife Ni Thuairisg from TG4 will MC the evening, and will be joined on stage with a star-studded line-up of award-presenters and musicians.

A walk on the wild side in Wicklow

The award-winning landscape and nature photographer Fran Byrne will lead a guided winter photography walk on Sunday February 8 at 10am in the beautiful Powerscourt Gardens in Enniskerry, Co Wicklow.

The walk is open to all levels of photographers and is the first photo walk in the gardens this year. Bring along your camera and a sense of adventure.

The walk is three hours long and costs €10, including entry to Powerscourt Gardens, so it's great value. Places are limited and advance booking through www.powerscourt.com/events is essential.

Protect Aer Lingus Heathrow slots

The Irish Hotels Federation (IHF) have urged the Government to protect Aer Lingus take-off and landing slots at Heathrow for routes to and from Irish airports. Stephen McNally, president of the IHF, expressed concern at the prospect of the 23 slots being re-allocated to other routes following a potential takeover of the airline.

He said the slots were critically important to tourism.

Sunday Independent