EXPECTANT mothers in Scotland's largest health board will be able to contact a midwife directly as soon as they know they are pregnant.

The move is part of a nationwide drive to link women's maternity care to a local midwife immediately, rather than relying on their own GP.

NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde will launch its central booking line in mid June, with the telephone number 0141 232 4005.

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However, it comes four years after controversy over the scheme when doctors warned it could put babies and expectant mothers at risk by circumventing the GP.

Helplines are already set up in other health board areas, including NHS Lothian.

All mothers-to-be are being urged to book into their local maternity services by the 12th week of their pregnancy.

At this key stage midwives can assess the mother's health needs and provide support around eating well, exercise, dental care, smoking, drinking and housing.

Michelle McLauchlan, General Manager, Obstetrics and Gynaecology, said: "We want to emphasise to women across NHSGGC that they can make their first midwife appointment as soon as they know they are pregnant.

"This provides more time for improvement of health behaviours, including reducing smoking cessation rates, substance and alcohol misuse, and increasing breast feeding rates.

"All of this will have a positive impact on long-term public health."