Preventing Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Maternal Smoking

The risk of smoking during pregnancy is an issue for both Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander and non-Indigenous women. However, there are particular concerns about the high rates of smoking reported for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander mothers ref=33934.

Smoking in pregnancy is a concern because of the poisons contained in tobacco and cigarettes, which can pass on to the unborn baby ref=23503. Women who smoke when they are pregnant may have more problems than non-smokers during pregnancy and labour, and are at higher risk of:

  • spontaneous abortion and miscarriage (when a pregnancy is involuntarily terminated before 20 weeks of gestation)
  • ectopic pregnancy (when a fertilised egg is implanted outside the uterus, usually in the fallopian tubes)
  • complications of pregnancy relating to the placenta and membranes, many of which can lead to preterm delivery (when the baby is born too early)  ref=29610.

Smoking in pregnancy also means the baby may:

  • be born too early (premature/preterm birth)
  • be born too small (low birthweight)
  • be at higher risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
  • have an increased risk of deformities  ref=33934 ref=29611.

Smoking is one of the most important preventable risk factors for complications in pregnancy and poor health outcomes for babies  ref=26473. It is best if mothers can stop smoking before getting pregnant, but the earlier they stop during pregnancy the better. It is also important for pregnant women to try to avoid being around smokers altogether ref=33934.

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Artwork

Seven Sisters

Artist: Josie Boyle Josie Boyle is an Aboriginal Elder, storyteller and painter who lives and works in Perth. She is Aboriginal ; Aboriginal Wongaii people. Josie receives her Dreaming stories from Mimbardda. Mimbardda is a Wonggutha woman and story teller. The Story: Yindidi is what we call the Milky Way in my mother's Aboriginal culture", says Wongi story teller, Josie Boyle."This Seven Sisters story was her religion". A long time ago the Minyma Birnee (the Seven Sisters) lived in the Yindidi and they came to Earth, bringing with them cosmic eggs and seeds for planting to create the Earth. They were the first botanists. They sang and danced the map of their journey, seeding life right through the country around places known today as Menzies, Coolgardie, Leonora, Mt Margaret and Kookynie. Every morning the Seven Sisters rose in the darkness to dance and sing the sun up and to celebrate its power. From the sun they got their direction, where to plant the seeds, how to harvest and how to live so that life could be sustained eternally. The Seven Sisters lived in this beautiful country in the amphitheatres of caves, around dancing grounds and rock-holes filled with sweet, fresh water. In one place they pounded seeds to make 'namili' (the first bread) and in another they did healing with medicine plants and stones. After preparing the Earth for 'midgarn' (birth), they returned to their starting place to find that the rock-holes had dried up. So they sent the youngest sister off to get some water in the direction of where the two men had come from, they had been following the Seven Sisters from a distance. One of the men touched and claimed the younger sister and together they bore the first children of the Wongi people. The six sisters returned to the Yindidi, leaving their mortal sister to catch up with them later.

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