NHS will soon get pregnant women to take a smoking test in a bid to reduce stillbirths

The NHS has announced plans for pregnant women to have smoking tests [Photo: Getty]

The NHS has announced plans to ask all pregnant women to take a smoking test in an effort to reduce the number of stillbirths.

As part of a new drive to encourage women to quit smoking, mums-to-be will be required to take a carbon monoxide test in hospital to determine whether they, or their partner, smoke.

At the moment, pregnant women are asked if they smoke during appointments, but this leaves it down to them to decide whether to reveal the truth about whether they are continuing to smoke.

But from July, midwives and doctors will screen pregnant women at 12 weeks and 36 weeks.

If they are found to be a smoker, the women will be offered specialist information and advice about how to quit within 24 hours.

They will also then be retested at every subsequent appointment.

READ MORE: Is it really possible to not know you’re pregnant until you give birth?

Due to the harmful effects of second-hand smoke, the tests will also be able to detect if the woman’s partner smokes and whether they live in a smoke-free home.

Despite being warned about the dangers of smoking, stats have revealed around one in 14 women still smoke cigarettes during pregnancy.

Further NHS statistics also revealed that more than one in 10 pregnant women – 65,000 a year in England alone – are still smoking at the time of giving birth.

While smoking has long been known to increase the risk of babies being born earlier and smaller, as well as increasing the risk of miscarriage, many women struggle to break the addiction while expecting a child.

According to the NHS, when a pregnant woman smokes she breathes in more than 4,000 chemicals from the cigarette, including carbon monoxide, which goes into the bloodstream and into the placenta and umbilical cord, causing the baby to struggle for oxygen.

The NHS also says secondhand smoke can  reduce the baby’s birthweight and increase the risk of cot death.

Babies whose parents smoke are more likely to be admitted to hospital for bronchitis and pneumonia during their first year.  

READ MORE: Can your body ever really recover when you quit social smoking?

The move is part of a wider drive to encourage women to quit smoking [Photo: Getty]

Commenting on the move Matt Hancock, the health secretary, told The Sunday Times: “The number of women smoking in pregnancy is at a record low, but too many women still suffer the tragedy of stillbirth as a result of smoking.

“Today’s plans are about our continuing commitment to do everything in our power to address this, by supporting mums-to-be to quit, in pregnancy and for good.”

According to Tommy’s, in the UK, around 1 in 225 pregnancies end in stillbirth – when a baby dies after 24 weeks gestation. This is equivalent to over 3,430 babies dying every year. 

The organisation says that smoking during pregnancy is thought to be the cause of 40% of baby deaths.

The NHS Smokefree helpline offers free help, support and advice on stopping smoking and can give you details of local support services.

Free NHS Smokefree helpline 0300 123 1044, 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, 11am to 4pm at weekends