DOCTORS aim to tackle the number of pregnant women who smoke by showing mums-to-be the damage they are doing to their unborn child.
Portsmouth Hospitals NHS Trust (PHT), which runs midwifery services in south east Hampshire, is bringing in a carbon monoxide (CO) test.
That is to address the high numbers of expectant mothers who smoke.
Figures from Portsmouth City Council show 17.3 per cent of pregnant women smoke during pregnancy – the national average is 12.7 per cent. In Hampshire the figure is 11.8 per cent but is also a problem in deprived areas of the south coast.
As a result, pregnant smokers will now be asked to take the breathalyser-style test which will show how much of the toxic element is in their system and that of their unborn child.
If readings are high, mums-to-be will be referred to stop smoking services and educated about the risks they are causing their child.
The test is at centres including Gosport, Portsmouth, Fareham and Petersfield.
Tina Spiers, clinical lead midwife, said: ‘Smoking in pregnancy can cause miscarriages, stillbirth, a difficult labour or premature birth.
‘As your baby is developing, it reacts to CO more.
‘So for every one cigarette a mum has, it counts for two for the baby.’
Women can opt-out from the test, which works by blowing into a machine for 10 seconds, after which a reading is given.
If it is higher than five parts per million of carbon monoxide, then it is considered abnormal.
Mrs Shiers added: ‘We show how much CO is in her blood and how much is in her baby’s blood.
‘Women who live in areas of high deprivation, such as Gosport and Portsmouth, find smoking as their way to deal with stress.
‘So they might be worried about rent payments and other costs.
‘The one thing they can control is having a cigarette, and they think by doing so they are controlling their stress. That isn’t the case and we want to help.’
Women who have a high level of CO will be referred to stop smoking services, who will help them quit.
The test, rolled out across the area in time for Stoptober, is being backed by Dr Andrew Whittamore, a Crookhorn doctor who is a clinical lead for respiratory in south-east Hampshire.
He said: ‘It’s important this test is done. Smoking is bad for your health and your baby’s health, such as picking up infections or having asthma without a family history.’
Director of public health supports carbon monoxide test
SMOKING during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriages, stillbirths and premature babies.
Dr Janet Maxwell, director of public health for Portsmouth, said: ‘Carbon monoxide monitoring will help women recognise the damage being caused.
‘This is an important tool for identifying exposure to second-hand smoke and other sources of CO, such as through faulty gas appliances, as well as assessing the risk taken by pregnant women who themselves smoke.
‘Smoking affects fertility in both men and women, can cause complications during labour, increased risk of miscarriage, premature birth and even stillbirth.’
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