Pregnant women should pass tests to verify whether they are smoking or not in the course of their pregnancy, new NHS guidance is suggesting.
A predicted 18% of women smoke being pregnant, which is considered to result in a low birth weight for their infants and lead to difficulties in pregnancy and labour.
In a bid to reduce the numbers, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has said future mothers should do a test for carbon monoxide present in cigarettes during antenatal visits, and given help to stop smoking if levels are too high.
The recommendations have been supported by midwives.
Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the Royal College of Midwives said the tests would be very useful “in displaying to women the possible harm that smoking and secondhand smoke can have on their child”.
But she cautioned that “any test which gets to be routine must be provided together with comprehensive details and women must be able to opt out.
” … We would like (Nice) to explain in any advice to women that midwives should provide the test but that eventually the final decision must lie with the woman.”
But the new tests have also been criticized, with parenting groups stating expectant mothers should not be influenced in this manner. There is also worry the tests could affect the relationship between pregnant women and the professionals giving them antenatal support.
Mrs Warwick added that the NHS has too few midwives.
“The real option here in cutting the prevalence of smoking in pregnancy is more midwives and more continuity of care from the same midwife.
“The lack of midwives, especially in England, indicates that often a midwife does not have as much time as she would want with each future mother in her care and that women often see a different midwife at each visit,” she said.
The new Nice guidelines, presently under consultation, are due to be released later this year.