June 25, 2010 - Currently pregnant women are asked if they smoke by midwives and GPs (general practitioners) but the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) of the United Kingdom's (UK) National Health Service (NHS) (an independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on promoting good health and preventing and treating ill health) wants this to go further.
The organisation has recommended that all pregnant women should have their breath measured for carbon monoxide levels when they book in with a midwife. This would establish which women smoke and provide an added incentive for them to quit, the guidance said. Also for non-smokers it may highlight that the woman is unknowingly exposed to high levels of carbon monoxide from second hand smoke, a faulty boiler or car fumes. The guidance is likely to prove controversial among pregnant women who may resent so much testing by health authorities and believe that if they say they are a non-smoker, they might not be believed.
NICE has made some mistakes in the past. NICE Gives Thumbs Up To Champix saying that they actively support the smoking cessation drug Champix (Chantix)that is made by the drug company Pfizer.. (Champix (Chantix) - the risks are greater then the benefits.. Also back in February 2010 - The Citizens Council, a group which brings the views of the public to NICE’s decision-making, has voted overwhelmingly in favour of the use of harm reduction as a way to reduce the dangers of smoking.
Smoking during pregnancy can increase the risk of miscarriage, premature birth, stillbirth and sudden unexpected death in infancy, known as cot death. Exposure to smoke in the womb is also associated with psychological problems in childhood such as attention and hyperactivity problems. Meanwhile, children of parents who smoke tend to suffer from more respiratory problems like asthma or bronchitis and have problems of the ear, nose and throat, compared to children in non-smoking households. Nearly half of all children in the UK are exposed to tobacco smoke at home, the guidance said.
The guidance says that women who smoke and are either pregnant or have recently given birth should be offered a range of options to help them quit, including automatic referral to stop-smoking services and sensitive and non-judgemental support by professionals.
The guidance also recommends training for staff and says caution should be used when prescribing pregnancy women with nicotine replacement therapy such as gum or patches.
Jane Brewin, Chief Executive of baby charity Tommy’s, said: "The sooner women who are pregnant can give up smoking, the better. Every baby deserves the best start in life and those born to smokers tend be smaller and weaker than other infants. However, it’s important pregnant women feel supported if they make the decision to quit, and are aware of the stop smoking services available to them."
Rosie Dodds, senior public policy officer for the National Childbirth Trust, said: "We welcome these guidelines as long as they are offered to women in a positive, and non-judgemental way. As long as women are listened too, they could be offered as supportive intervention. Any measure that helps women to give up smoking can only be a good thing for them and their baby."
A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "We welcome the publication of these new guidelines. Smoking in pregnancy is a major public health concern posing risks to both mother and baby. We want the NHS to use this guidance to develop the best possible services for pregnant women.
Reference: Test all pregnant women for smoking, says Nice by Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor, Telegraph.co.uk, 6/24/2010.
Some related news brief - United Kingdom (UK) - pregnancy:
Scotland - renewing efforts to stop pregnant women from smoking..;
Wales - One in five women in Wales smoke while pregnant..;
Scotland - self-reporting of smoking by pregnant women underestimates true number of pregnant smokers..;
Smoking during pregnancy and postnatal environment - socioeconomic inequalities..;
England - program to pay pregnant women not to smoke seems hopeful..;
England - pregnant women getting paid to stop smoking..;
Smoking mothers can impair a baby's ability to respond to external stimuli may increase risk of SIDS..;