The effect of smoking cessation counselling in pregnant women: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials


MJ Eisenberg, Divisions of Cardiology and Clinical Epidemiology, Jewish General Hospital/McGill University, 3755 Côte Ste-Catherine Road, Suite H-421, Montreal, QC H3T 1E2, Canada. Email


Please cite this paper as: Filion K, Abenhaim H, Mottillo S, Joseph L, Gervais A, O’Loughlin J, Paradis G, Pihl R, Pilote L, Rinfret S, Tremblay M, Eisenberg M. The effect of smoking cessation counselling in pregnant women: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. BJOG 2011;118:1422–1428.

Background  Pregnant smokers are often prescribed counselling as part of multicomponent cessation interventions. However, the isolated effect of counselling in this population remains unclear, and individual randomised controlled trials (RCTs) are inconclusive.

Objective  To conduct a meta-analysis of RCTs examining counselling in pregnant smokers.

Search strategy  We searched the CDC Tobacco Information and Prevention, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, Medline and PsycINFO databases for RCTs evaluating smoking cessation counselling.

Selection criteria  We included RCTs conducted in pregnant women in which the effect of counselling could be isolated and those that reported biochemically validated abstinence at 6 or 12 months after the target quit date.

Data collection and analysis  Overall estimates were derived using random effects meta-analysis models.

Main results  Our search identified eight RCTs (n = 3290 women), all of which examined abstinence at 6 months. The proportion of women that remained abstinent at the end of follow up was modest, ranging from 4 to 24% among those randomised to counselling and from 2 to 21% among control women. The absolute difference in abstinence reached a maximum of only 4%. Summary estimates are inconclusive because of wide confidence intervals, albeit with little evidence to suggest that counselling is efficacious at promoting abstinence (odds ratio 1.08, 95% confidence interval 0.84–1.40). There was no evidence to suggest that efficacy differed by counselling type.

Conclusions  Available data from RCTs examining the isolated effect of smoking cessation counselling in pregnant women are limited but sufficient to rule out large treatment effects. Future RCTs should examine pharmacological therapies in this population.