Pregnant women to be breathalysed in anti-smoking drive

Cigarette smoker
Cigarette smoker

Expectant mothers will be breath tested to check for carbon monoxide under a new scheme to shock them into quitting smoking.

The initiaive is being rolled out to all those who use Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust’s services and enables midwives to identify those mother-to-be who do smoke – or who are exposed to second hand smoke – so that the right support and advice can be given.

It will also alert them to women who may be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning due to a faulty gas appliance.

Community midwives will carry out the majority of the testing at the booking appointment, though midwifery staff in the antenatal clinics at both Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe hospitals will also do it.

If the test is positive, it gives health professionals the chance to have an open and honest discussion and direct the woman to the Vucks Stop Smoking Service, assuming this is what she wants. The test also flags up issues with second-hand smoke where the woman doesn’t smoke but someone else in the home does.

Smoking during pregnancy poses serious health risks for unborn babies, including premature birth, miscarriage and still birth.

Children born to mothers who smoke are also at increased risk of cot death, conditions such as asthma or bronchitis, attention and hyperactivity difficulties, learning difficulties, obesity, diabetes and ear, nose and throat problems.

Head of midwifery at Bucks Healthcare NHS Trust Audrey Warren said: “This scheme is designed to support mothers who are smoking during pregnancy. Smoking is extremely addictive and it can be hard for some mothers to quit.

“As midwives it is part of our role to help mothers protect their health and that of their unborn baby, and carrying out carbon monoxide testing will help us to do this.”

Councillor Patricia Birchley, cabinet member for health and wellbeing at Bucks County Council, said: “Smoking in pregnancy carries very serious health risks for unborn children and we support any initiative that is aimed at addressing this avoidable risk.

“Helping women to stop smoking in pregnancy will also help break the cycle of smoking initiation, ultimately reducing the number of smokers in the county by helping to ensure today’s children don’t grow up to be tomorrow’s smokers.”

The introduction of carbon monoxide testing is a recommendation from NICE as part of the general series of tests carried out to check the health of a mother-to-be.

As with the other tests carried out at this time (for infections, anaemia, diabetes etc), the carbon monoxide test is optional.