Pregnant and postnatal women's experiences of interacting with health care providers about their tobacco smoking: a qualitative systematic review

JBI Evid Synth. 2022 Dec 8. doi: 10.11124/JBIES-22-00052. Online ahead of print.


Objective: The objective of this review was twofold: (i) to comprehensively identify the best available evidence about the experiences of women who smoked tobacco during pregnancy or postnatally (or both) concerning health care providers' interactions with them about their smoking, when such interactions occurred during contact for prenatal or postnatal health care in any health care setting; and (ii) to synthesize the research findings for recommendations to strengthen health care providers' interventions regarding smoking during pregnancy and smoking during the postnatal period.

Introduction: Maternal tobacco smoking during pregnancy and maternal tobacco smoking postnatally pose serious health risks for the woman, fetus, and offspring, whereas maternal smoking cessation has beneficial health effects. Given the importance of health care providers' interactions with pregnant and postnatal women for smoking cessation care, it is essential to understand women's experiences of such interactions.

Inclusion criteria: Studies considered for this review had qualitative research findings about the experiences of women who smoked tobacco during pregnancy or postnatally (or both) in relation to health care providers' interactions with them about their smoking.

Methods: The review was conducted using the JBI approach to qualitative systematic reviews. Published studies were sought through 6 academic databases (eg, CINAHL, MEDLINE). Unpublished studies were searched in 6 gray literature sources (eg, ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, Google Scholar). Reference lists of retrieved records were also searched. The searches occurred in October and November 2020; no country, language, or date limits were applied. Study selection involved title and abstract screening, full-text examination, and critical appraisal of all studies that met the inclusion criteria for the review. Study characteristics and research findings were extracted from the included studies. Study selection and extraction of findings were conducted by two reviewers independently; differences between reviewers were resolved through consensus. The research findings were categorized, and the categories were aggregated into a set of synthesized findings. The synthesized finding were assigned confidence scores. The categories and finalized synthesized findings were agreed upon by all reviewers.

Results: The 57 included studies varied in qualitative research designs and in methodological quality (from mostly low to high). There were approximately 1092 eligible participants, and 250 credible and unequivocal research findings. The research findings yielded 14 categories and 6 synthesized findings with low to very low confidence scores. Some women who smoked tobacco during pregnancy and some women who smoked tobacco postnatally lacked supportive interactions by health care providers regarding their smoking; other women experienced supportive interactions by health care providers. Women were adversely impacted when health care providers' interactions lacked supportiveness, and were beneficially impacted when interactions were supportive. Women varied in openness to health care providers' interactions regarding their smoking, from not being receptive to being accepting, and some women wanted meaningful health care provider interactions.

Conclusions: Although confidence in the synthesized findings is low to very low, the evidence indicates that supportive health care provider interactions may facilitate positive smoking behavior change in pregnancy and postnatally. It is recommended that health care providers implement accepted clinical practice guidelines with women who smoke prenatally or postnatally, using an approach that is person-centered, emotionally supportive, engaging (eg, understanding), and non-authoritarian.

Systematic review registration number: PROSPERO CRD42020178866.