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13.05.13

Pregnant women to be tested for smoking

New guidelines could introduce carbon monoxide tests to all women at antenatal appointments, to encourage pregnant women to quit smoking.

NICE would recommend that midwives refer mothers to smoking cessation services if the tests showed high levels of carbon monoxide throughout their pregnancy.

An estimated 20% of women smoke during pregnancy, which harms foetal growth and development. Mothers who smoke are three times more likely to have a baby with a low birth weight, which is a leading cause of infant death. Smoking can also cause complications in pregnancy and labour.

The guidance is currently out to public consultation, but midwives have cautioned that it could damage their relationships with mothers.

Royal College of Midwives’ chief executive Cathy Warwick said: “Midwives have a vital role to play in promoting public health, and reducing smoking in pregnancy is extremely important. I visited a maternity unit this week, and heard from fellow midwives just how helpful these tests can be in showing to women the potential damage that smoking can have on their baby.

“Of course, not all women will want to take this test. Any test which becomes routine must be offered along with comprehensive information and women must be able to opt out. Tests can help midwives educate women in the hope that they reduce their baby’s exposure to cigarette smoke but not all women will accept the test and it is only a partial solution.”

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