Monday 14 October 2019

Breathalysing pregnant women a bad idea

Pregnant women who continue to smoke are in a very small minority.
Pregnant women who continue to smoke are in a very small minority.

Deborah Coleman - Straight Talking

New Irish research released in recent days has suggested that pregnant women should be breathalysed at ante-natal appointments to determine whether or not they are smokers.

While the intention behind the research is sincere, introducing such a practice would be an utter insult to pregnant women in this country and would herald a throwback to times when women weren't trusted to make their own decisions - so the State would step in and do it for them. There is no doubt that smoking, and particularly during pregnancy is a completely ill-advised and anyone who continues to smoke during pregnancy must have blinkers on when it comes to the education and awareness that is out there today about the dangers it can create.

Healthcare professionals are there to support and offer advice to expectant mothers, not to preach and bully them into adopting a certain lifestyle.

I expect that the number of pregnant women in Ireland who continue to smoke are in a very small minority and that even if such a breath test was introduced, they would be unlikely to give up anyway. The problem with introducing a breathalyser test at ante-natal appointments is that it would suggest that women cannot be trusted to make the best decisions for themselves and their unborn babies.

I realise that healthcare professionals can only offer the best care if they have a clear picture of the patient's lifestyle and really there is no benefit to the patient in keeping the truth hidden.

A breathalyser test would only serve to intimidate and create stress for the expectant mother, rather than offering a supportive environment in which they can feel empowered to tackle their addiction properly. Everyone approaches pregnancy, and parenting thereafter differently and while smoking is obviously a dangerous habit to maintain both during and after pregnancy, the decision is ultimately the women's to make. There are many lifestyle changes that women are advised to make during pregnancy and they alone must be trusted to do so.

From exercise to diet and cutting out alcohol and smoking to reducing stress and getting plenty of rest - everyone is doing their best, and it is sometimes hard enough without feeling judged by those that should be showing support.

Fingal Independent