Midwives in the North East are to routinely test women for carbon monoxide as part of a major campaign to protect thousands of unborn babies from the harm caused by smoking.
About 400 midwives and more than 100 Stop Smoking Service advisers have had skills training and equipment to back the implementation of this project.
The drive, which is aimed at addressing the UK’s worst rates of smoking during pregnancy, is being rolled out across all NHS trusts in the North East.
The initiative known as babyClear, headed by Fresh and the Tobacco Control Collaborating Centre, is a nationwide first.
It is targeted at driving down smoking-related premature births, stillbirths, miscarriages and complications after labour.
The drive is backed by all eight of the North East’s foundation trusts, heads of midwifery and NHS stop smoking services.
This is to make sure that every woman smoking during pregnancy is given full, frank and factual data from a qualified health professional about the damaging impact of carbon monoxide (CO), and encouraged to quit.
The North East has the worst levels of smoking in pregnancy in England, despite recent massive improvements.
Under babyClear, all North East trust nurses will include carbon monoxide testing as part of the routine tests all women get at the initial booking appointment, which is part of national NICE guidance.
Increased CO readings can suggest smoking but also second-hand smoke exposure, inhalation of fumes from faulty exhausts, or poorly ventilated cooking or heating apparatus.
All high readings will be passed on to NHS stop smoking services within two days.
At the time of the dating scan, any mothers-to-be who are still smoking will be given a more thorough explanation of the possible related damage to the foetus.
As many as 4,000 chemicals in tobacco are absorbed through the lungs and travel into the bloodstream when a smoker inhales.
In pregnant women, these are transferred to the baby through the placenta, robbing the unborn infant of key oxygen.
Anne Holt, head of midwifery at County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust, which was the first NHS trust to fully embed both babyClear interventions, said: “Women smoke during pregnancy for a number of reasons, but most probably started as teenagers and are addicted.
“If their partner smokes that can make quitting more difficult as well, so we’re urging partners to quit too,” she said.
“After embedding babyClear, we found many women were shocked and had not previously fully understood the process of how poisonous chemicals reach the baby and deprive them of oxygen.”
Copyright Press Association 2013
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