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Keywords:

  • behavior and behavior mechanisms;
  • maternal behavior;
  • postpartum period;
  • qualitative research;
  • smoking

Abstract:  Background:  Many women stop smoking during pregnancy. Factors associated with relapse are known, but no intervention prevents the return to smoking among pregnant women. The objective of this study was to determine why women return to smoking after prolonged abstinence during pregnancy by examining mothers’ intention to smoke at the time of delivery and the perceptions that shape their intention.

Methods:  We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews during their postpartum hospital stay with 24 women who stopped smoking while pregnant. We asked participants whether they intended to resume smoking after pregnancy and why. Transcripts were analyzed using grounded theory-based qualitative methods to identify themes.

Results:  Participants ranged in age from 18 to 36 years, and 63 percent were white. Three themes emerged from the interviews with the mothers: 1) they did not intend to return to smoking but doubted whether they would be able to maintain abstinence; 2) they believed that it would be possible to protect their newborns from the harms of cigarette smoke; and 3) they felt that they had control over their smoking and did not need help to maintain abstinence after pregnancy.

Conclusions:  Although most participants did not intend to resume smoking, their intentions may be stymied by their perceptions about second-hand smoke and by their overestimation of their control over smoking. Further study should quantify these barriers and determine their evolution over the first year after pregnancy with the goal of informing more successful, targeted interventions. (BIRTH 39:1 March 2012)