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Midwifery. 2011 Oct;27(5):607-11. doi: 10.1016/j.midw.2010.05.007. Epub 2010 Sep 15.

The 'quit' smoker and stillbirth risk: a review of contemporary literature in the light of findings from a case-control study.

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School of Nursing and Midwifery, University of South Australia, City East Campus, North Terrace, Adelaide 5000, Australia.



to identify existing literature which addresses the topic of detecting, assessing and intervening when a pregnant woman who has quit smoking relapses. This literature review was conducted in the light of findings of a case-control study which suggest that a quit smoking status is associated with increased risk of late stillbirth (odds ratio 3.03, 95% confidence interval 1.27-7.24, p = 0.01).


a structured review was conducted to identify literature related to quitting smoking in early pregnancy, prevalence and likelihood of relapse, possible methods for detecting smoking resumption, potential intervention strategies for the relapsed smoker and the societal burden of continuing to smoke in pregnancy.


there is a wide variety of evidence for the effectiveness of intervention strategies aimed at assisting women to quit smoking during pregnancy. However, few studies have specifically aimed to identify strategies to assist those women who report quitting in early pregnancy to maintain that status throughout pregnancy.


in light of the results of the case-control study and this literature review, it is important that changes are made to prenatal care in order to enable midwives to better identify women who are struggling with abstinence or who resume smoking during pregnancy.


midwives should discuss and monitor smoking status with women at every prenatal visit. If a midwife finds that a woman has relapsed into smoking, they can be offered a range of quit smoking intervention strategies, including referral to a dedicated cessation service, counselling support, alternative therapies and, perhaps, nicotine replacement therapy. Further research aimed at identifying the extent of relapse among these women and the impact this may have on pregnancy outcome is warranted. Research to ascertain the most appropriate interventions to prevent relapse is also needed.

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