Page last updated at 12:22 GMT, Friday, 30 October 2009

Pregnant smokers lie about habit

Pregnant woman holding her stomach
The study suggests many pregnant smokers do not get advice on quitting

Nearly a fifth of women who smoke while pregnant lie about their habit to health professionals, a study has said.

Researchers at Glasgow University believe official figures underestimate the number of pregnant smokers by 17%.

Random blood tests suggested that many women had been smoking, even though they had reported otherwise.

The report, published on, suggests that more accurate methods be used to establish the true level of smoking among pregnant women.

The Scottish government relies on self-reported smoking figures to set targets and measure the success of smoking cessation services.

The Glasgow University study compared the self-reported smoking status of 3,475 pregnant women from the west of Scotland with results of blood cotinine testing, which detects recent nicotine exposure, to estimate the number of undetected smokers.

Deprived areas

In total, 24.1% (839) of pregnant women reported being smokers compared to the cotinine-validated estimate of 30.1% (1046).

Nearly a fifth (207/1046) of cotinine-validated smokers were not detected by self-report and were not offered smoking cessation services, which translates to 2,400 pregnant women a year in Scotland.

The use of self-reporting in Scotland results in twice as many pregnant smokers from more deprived areas going undetected each year compared with pregnant smokers from more affluent areas, the study found.

After adjusting their findings to take into account maternal age and background, the authors estimated that 28% of pregnant women in Scotland are smokers - compared to the official estimate of 23%.

They called for more accurate methods of identifying pregnant smokers to inform policy and provide appropriate patient care.

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