According to The Telegraph, a new smoking test has been proposed for all expectant mothers. The suggested test would be given by midwifes at regular prenatal appointments throughout pregnancy to check for elevated levels of carbon monoxide, signalling cigarette use.
One out of five pregnant women in England continue to smoke, despite the dangerous health risks to unborn babies. Smoking during pregnancy can lead to premature birth, low birth weight, and delayed development. When a pregnant woman smokes, she reduces the amount of oxygen available to the unborn child and causes a spike in the baby’s heart rate. Studies show that smoking during pregnancy increases the risk for miscarriage and stillbirth.
The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has suggested the smoking tests so that midwives can better monitor the health of women and their babies. When a woman tests for high carbon monoxide levels, she would then be referred to smoking cessation services.
The goal of the smoking test is to help expectant women get help to stop smoking. It would be an extra step in educating women about the risks and providing them with the support they need to give up cigarettes during pregnancy.
While this sounds like a great option for pregnant mothers, there are many who oppose the smoking test. One of the biggest concerns is that the test could be mandatory and women would be subjected to awkward conversations with their midwives. In many situations, this could cause an expectant mother to feel shame and embarrassment.
There is already a great deal of pressure on pregnant women to avoid smoking. A mandatory smoking test could have a negative effect by causing women who smoke to avoid prenatal care for fear of being shamed or put on the spot.
Currently, no NHS treatment is mandatory and midwives do not require any kind of smoking test at prenatal appointments. Cathy Warwick serves as the Royal College of Midwives’ Chief Executives. She told The Telegraph that the tests were “helpful” but would only be a partial solution because not all women would be willing to take the test.
Warwick also expressed the need for women to have a choice about the test. She said, “Any test which becomes routine must be offered along with comprehensive information and women must be able to opt out.”
NICE will release the official guidelines later this summer. Do you think it should be mandatory for all pregnant women to take smoking tests? Would it be beneficial to protect babies from premature birth or would it only cause more women to avoid prenatal care?