News Monday July 5, 2010

Pregnant women to be given smoking cessation tests

By Alexander Penn

A health watchdog has suggested that pregnant women should be tested for smoking in a bid to help them quit.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) believes that expectant mothers should have their carbon monoxide levels checked through a breath-test as part of their first ante-natal appointments.

This would pin-point women requiring help and advice to quit smoking.

Such suggestions has sparked backlash as midwives accused the tests of making the mothers feel “guilty”.

NICE have denied such claims, describing the intentions of the program as not aiming to penalise smokers but rather to help women quit smoking in and out of pregnancy.

Professor Mike Kelly. The NICE director of the centre of public health excellence 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”.

Mr Kelly added that midwives should urge pregnant women to get their carbon monoxide levels tested and to 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." he remarked.

The idea was supported by the Royal College of Mid-Wives (RCM), yet they stressed the need of “non-judgmental support” for pregnant women, criticising the plan as running the risk of embarrassing expectant mothers.

RCM education and research manager, Sue Macdonald remarked: “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."

The debate continues.

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