12 May 2013

Pregnant women to be tested for smoking

Pregnant women will be asked to take breath tests to prove if they are smoking during their pregnancy, under new NHS guidance.

Pregnant women to be tested for smoking (G)

An estimated one in five women smoke while expecting, which is believed to lead to a low birth weight for their babies.

In a bid to lower the lower the numbers, women should be tested for carbon monoxide found in cigarettes during antenatal appointments, said the national institute for health and clinical excellence (Nice), and given help to quit if levels are too high.

The organisation which advises the NHS said that smoking can cause complications in pregnancy and labour, and is a substantial risk to babies in the womb.

In its draft guidance for helping people to stop smoking, Nice suggested that pregnant women be tested for carbon monoxide and referred to “smoking cessation services” if needed.

But a royal college of midwives (RCM) source told the Sunday Times that the guidance was “ill-judged” and warned that forcing tests on women could damage midwives’ relationships with expectant mothers.

The tests could be “helpful” in reducing smoking during pregnancy, said the RCM’s Chief Executive Cathy Warwick in a statement, but she said it was crucial that women are able to opt out.

It is believed that 21 per cent of women smoke while pregnant.

“Smoking can cause complications in pregnancy and labour, including ectopic pregnancy, bleeding during pregnancy, premature detachment of the placenta and premature rupture of the membranes,” said the Nice draft guidance.

“The health risks for babies of mothers who smoke are substantial.”

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