Media Release: Test helps expectant mums to stub it out

PREGNANT women throughout Scotland are to be given help in highlighting their exposure to cigarette smoke.

Women attending their first antenatal appointment at all hospitals under the NHS Scotland Health Board are being offered a carbon monoxide (CO) test.

The service, devised by the Maternity & Children Quality Improvement Collaborative (MCQIC) of the Scottish Patient Safety Programme, which is run by Healthcare Improvement Scotland, provides a method to indicate raised levels of exposure to the gas through either smoking or passive smoking or other sources such as exhaust fumes.

Midwives can use the results to assess the effects of high CO levels on the mother and unborn baby, offering the chance to refer women for support to stop smoking, as well as additional antenatal care support if required.

Every year, more than 11,000 Scottish babies are said to be affected by smoking in pregnancy.

Smoking ten or more cigarettes per day during pregnancy is believed to double the risk of stillbirth while it is estimated there is a seven-fold increase in the risk of cot death when the mother smokes more than 20 cigarettes per day, particularly during pregnancy.

Bernadette McCulloch, who leads the MCQIC team, said the project aims to ensure that all pregnant women are offered CO monitoring at the time of their first antenatal booking.

She said: “We know that giving up smoking is the single best thing anyone can do to improve their health, and for women who smoke during pregnancy, quitting is key to improving the health of both mother and baby.

“This service provides a highly effective method to show expectant mothers the risks of smoking with the immediate benefit of being offered the chance to access support to stop smoking or to have a tailored package of antenatal care for those who continue to smoke in pregnancy.”

The CO monitoring is being undertaken in the community by midwives and smoking cessation services supported by MCQIC midwife champions.

“The Scottish Patient Safety Programme has been running in Scotland’s acute hospitals for more than seven years, delivering a range of interventions that have helped to systematically improve the safety and reliability of hospital care. While the starting point has been acute care, there has always been a commitment to extending this approach to other areas. The Scottish Patient Safety Programme, which is part of Healthcare Improvement Scotland, now supports the implementation of safety programmes in acute adult, mental health, primary care and now MCQIC which encompasses maternity, neonatal and paediatric and care.”

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Notes to Editors

Healthcare Improvement Scotland is a health body created by the Public Services Reform (Scotland) Act 2010 with the key responsibility to help NHSScotland and independent healthcare providers deliver high quality, evidence-based, safe, effective and person-centred care; and to scrutinise services to provide public assurance about the quality and safety of that care.

Key components of our organisation include the Healthcare Environment Inspectorate (HEI), the Scottish Health Council, the Scottish Health Technologies Group, the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) and the Scottish Patient Safety Programme.

Media release issued on behalf of Healthcare Improvement Scotland by Holyrood Partnership on 0131 561 2244 or

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Contact: Linsay Robertson