CARBON monoxide testing is set to be carried out on pregnant woman using the services of Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust to determine whether they are smokers, or exposed to second hand smoke.

The scheme then aims to offer support and advice to anyone affected by referring them to the Bucks Stop Smoking Service.

It will also alert midwives to women who may be at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning as a result of a faulty gas appliance.

The majority of the carbon monoxide testing is carried out by the community midwives at the booking appointment, though midwifery staff in the antenatal clinics at both Stoke Mandeville and Wycombe hospitals also undertake testing.

The NHS says smoking in pregnancy poses serious health risks for unborn children, including premature birth, miscarriage and still birth. Children born to mothers who smoke are also at increased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (cot death), developing respiratory conditions such as asthma or bronchitis, attention and hyperactivity difficulties, learning difficulties,ear, nose and throat problems, obesity and diabetes.

Children who grow up in households with one parent who smokes are three times more likely to start smoking themselves.

Audrey Warren, Head of Midwifery at Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, said: "This scheme is designed to support mothers who are smoking during pregnancy. Smoking is extremely addictive and it can be hard for some mothers to quit.

"As midwives it is part of our role to help mothers protect their health and that of their unborn baby, and carrying out carbon monoxide testing will help us to do this."

Councillor Patricia Birchley, Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing at Buckinghamshire County Council added: "I'm delighted that Bucks Healthcare are rolling out this new scheme.

"Smoking in pregnancy carries very serious health risks for unborn children and we support any initiative that is aimed at addressing this avoidable risk.

"Helping women to stop smoking in pregnancy will also help break the cycle of smoking initiation, ultimately reducing the number of smokers in the county by helping to ensure today’s children don’t grow up to be tomorrow’s smokers."