Increasing Support for Smoking Cessation During Pregnancy and Postpartum

Encouragement from a friend or relative can help a pregnant woman quit smoking.

This paper presents research into whether active social support caused low-income women to smoke less during and after pregnancy. In addition, the study evaluated the nature of the support (e.g., positive or negative comments). Recruitment took place in 2005 in urban clinics in Minnesota and Ohio. Subjects were pregnant women in their first or second trimester, over 18 years old, and current smokers.

Each subject identified someone in her social network to act as a supporter. The study was a randomized trial; each subject-supporter pair was randomly assigned to the intervention or control group. All subjects received a single counseling session that provided motivational techniques and information about community resources for quitting. Supporters in the intervention group also attended a counseling session; supporters and counselors identified specific activities to help the subject quit smoking. Through monthly telephone conversations, counselors monitored what supporters were doing to discourage subjects from smoking. Researchers did not contact supporters assigned to the control group.

Key Findings:

  • A pregnant woman whose supporter was in the intervention group (i.e., received counseling) was more likely to say that the supporter had a “high” commitment level to helping her quit smoking.
  • A friend’s support was more beneficial than support from a relative.

Many women who smoke continue the habit after becoming pregnant. This randomized trial, conducted among low-income women, assessed the effects of mobilizing social support to help pregnant women quit smoking. Support from friends and family makes it less likely that a woman will smoke during pregnancy.