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Carbon monoxide tests for expectant mothers

24th June 2010

The government’s health watchdog has suggested that all pregnant women should be tested to see if they smoke.

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said expectant mums should undergo carbon monoxide testing and if it turns out they are smokers they can be given advice on how to give up.

The tests, if introduced, would take the form of a breath test at a woman’s first ante-natal appointment.

NICE director of the centre of public health excellence, Professor Mike Kelly, said: “During pregnancy, smoking puts the health of the women and her unborn baby at great risk both in the short and long-term, and small children who are exposed to second-hand smoke are more likely to suffer from respiratory problems.

“One of our recommendations is for midwives to encourage all pregnant women to have their carbon monoxide levels tested and discuss the results with them.

“This isn't to penalise them if they have been smoking, but instead will be a useful way to show women that both smoking and passive smoking can lead to having high levels of carbon monoxide in their systems.”

While the Royal College of Midwives welcomed the move, it also said it should be combined with non-judgemental support from women smokers.

RCM education and research manager Sue Macdonald said: It is crucial that health practitioners, including midwives, focus on being supportive rather than making women feeling guilty, or as though they may not be truthful.”

It was concerned that monitoring women in this way may make them feel guilty.

 

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