PREGNANT women are to be offered carbon monoxide monitoring to measure their exposure to cigarette smoke.
The service will be offered to all women in the early stages of pregnancy and will indicate raised levels of exposure to the gas through smoking or passive smoking.
Midwives can then refer women to stop-smoking support services, as well as additional care during the pregnancy if required.
Meanwhile, newly published European-wide research has shown that the number of attempts to quit smoking by pregnant women rose last year to 2,985, compared with 2,756 in 2011.
Smoking ten or more cigarettes per day during pregnancy doubles the risk of stillbirth, while the risk of cot death increases seven-fold when the mother smokes more than 20 a day, particularly if she has smoked during pregnancy, according to the NHS.
Public health minister Michael Matheson said: “The Scottish Government is committed to reducing the number of pregnant women smoking and it’s encouraging to see a rise in the number of quit attempts by pregnant women.
“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.
“We now want to make sure that all pregnant
women are offered carbon monoxide testing early in their pregnancy.
“Every child deserves the best possible start in life and we have already funded a midwifery champion for every territorial NHS board.
“They will play a vital part in making sure that mothers and babies have safe and healthy lives.”
The study has also found that one in five Scottish mothers-to-be are obese – one of the highest levels of overweight pregnant women in Europe.
Doctors yesterday expressed concern at the findings, which also identified low breastfeeding rates among new mothers in Scotland.
The European Perinatal Health Report found that obese women accounted for 20.7 per cent of all pregnant women in Scotland.
When overweight women were added to the equation, the percentage rose to 48.4 per cent. Analysis of the data showed that Scotland was the worst-performing country when it came to both obese and overweight mothers-to-be.
Scotland was one of 11 European countries able to provide data on obesity in pregnancy. The next-worst country was Germany where 13.7 per cent of mothers-to-be were obese. The best-performing country was Poland where only 7.1 per cent of pregnant women were obese. There was no data for the other countries in the UK.
Obesity during pregnancy increases the mother’s risk of diabetes and pre-eclampsia, the condition that causes blood pressure to rocket and increases the likelihood of premature babies. An obese mother is also more at risk of giving birth to a baby with a congenital defect such as spina bifida.
Yesterday Dr Jim Chalmers, a health consultant with NHS National Services Scotland who was involved in the study, said: “This is an important finding, because obesity means there is an increased risk to mother and baby. It is a problem for society – not just pregnant women.”
The report suggested that smoking was more of a problem in Scotland than elsewhere in Europe. It found that 19 per cent of Scottish mothers-to-be smoked during pregnancy – the highest proportion of the countries studied. That compared with under 5 per cent in Lithuania and Sweden at the healthiest end of the spectrum, 14 per cent in Catalonia, Spain, and 17 per cent in France.
The Euro-Peristat project also looked at the rate of breastfeeding in the first 48 hours after birth. The percentage of babies breastfed at birth ranged from 54 per cent to 99 per cent. The breastfeeding rate exceeded 95 per cent in the Czech Republic, Latvia, Portugal and Slovenia. The figure for Scotland was 64 per cent, which was below that for England (83 per cent) and towards the other end of the scale with countries such as Cyprus, France and Ireland, which recorded the lowest breastfeeding rate (54 per cent).
The 250-page report by the Euro-Peristat project is the most comprehensive research into the health and care of pregnant women and babies in Europe, comparing the situation across the continent in 2010.