The risks of smoking and/or high Carbon Monoxide Levels during pregnancy

The Maternity Unit at the Luton and Dunstable Hospital followed the National trend of ‘Stoptober’ during October; highlighting to women the importance of stopping smoking for good during their pregnancy to reduce the risk of stillbirth, premature birth, underweight babies and cot death. The waiting areas were filled with information to raise awareness of the risks of smoking during pregnancy and the potential harm this can cause to their newborn baby.

Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless and tasteless poisonous gas which can kill. It is present in exhaust fumes, faulty gas appliances, coal/wood fires, oil burning appliances and cigarette smoke, including passive cigarette smoke. It is especially dangerous in pregnancy because the more carbon monoxide a women has in her bloodstream, the less oxygen she has for her baby’s growth and development.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) screening is now routine during a pregnancy booking, in accordance with NICE guidance. This enables midwives to assess and fully explain to women their level of ‘risk’ in her pregnancy and encourage participation with local smoking cessation services if required. CO screening is easily performed by blowing into a tube and the level of carbon monoxide being measured within the blood. Our aim is to make CO screening routine throughout pregnancy and the postnatal period, similar to measuring blood pressure, testing urine and listening to the baby’s heartbeat. Referrals should be made for any women that pose a ‘risk’ with a high level CO to ensure their ‘living’ environment is safe for her developing baby and subsequent newborn baby.

The local smoking cessation for Luton is run by Total Wellbeing. They have specialist pregnancy trained advisors, with some who speak a variety of languages.

Please contact Jayne Pigott – Public Health Midwife on or 07837 090679 for further details or visit


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