Exploring the barriers of quitting smoking during pregnancy: a systematic review of qualitative studies

Women Birth. 2010 Jun;23(2):45-52. doi: 10.1016/j.wombi.2009.09.004. Epub 2009 Oct 30.


Smoking during pregnancy is widely known to increase health risks to the foetus, and understanding the quitting process during pregnancy is essential in order to realise national government targets. Qualitative studies have been used in order to gain a greater understanding of the quitting process and the objective of this systematic review was to examine and evaluate qualitative studies that have investigated the psychological and social factors around women attempting to quit smoking during pregnancy. Electronic databases and journals were searched with seven articles included in this review. The findings demonstrated that women were aware of the health risks to the foetus associated with smoking; however knowledge of potential health risks was not sufficient to motivate them to quit. Several barriers to quitting were identified which included willpower, role, and meaning of smoking, issues with cessation provision, changes in relationship interactions, understanding of facts, changes in smell and taste and influence of family and friends. A further interesting finding was that cessation service provision by health professionals was viewed negatively by women. It was concluded that there is a shortage of qualitative studies that concentrate on the specific difficulties that pregnant women face when trying to quit smoking.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Attitude to Health
  • Female
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Humans
  • Motivation
  • Patient Education as Topic
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications* / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Complications* / psychology
  • Pregnant Women / psychology
  • Qualitative Research*
  • Research Design
  • Self Efficacy
  • Smoking Cessation* / methods
  • Smoking Cessation* / psychology
  • Smoking Prevention
  • Smoking* / psychology