The body which sets NHS guidelines wants pregnant women to be tested to see if they are smoking / PA

Smoking while pregnant harms foetal growth and development

Pregnant women should be tested to see if they are smoking, and if they are they should be helped to quit, according to the body which issues guidance to the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) says midwives should give carbon monoxide tests to all women they see at antenatal appointments.

Women found to have high carbon monoxide readings - a sign that they are smoking - will be referred to “smoking cessation services”. Under the proposed guidance, all discussions about giving up smoking would be recorded in the mother’s notes, according to The Sunday Times.

An estimated 21% of women who smoke during pregnancy. This harms foetal growth and development, with smokers three times more likely to have a baby with low birth weight — a leading cause of infant death.

But Royal College of Midwives (RCM) source told The Sunday Times the guidance was “ill-judged” and could damage relationships with expectant mothers.

While no NHS treatment is compulsory, midwives are concerned women may feel they are under an obligation to take the tests.

Cathy Warwick, chief executive of the RCM, said the test could help show women the potential damage to unborn babies, but said the final decision must lie with the mother.