Disparities in prenatal smoking rates indicate the need for new smoking cessation intervention strategies tailored to low-income pregnant women. Information about natural patterns of advice-giving during pregnancy would facilitate this goal. This study examines the advice-giving role of close female friends and relatives ('confidantes') during pregnancy, and assesses the utility of including them in an intervention. A questionnaire was administered verbally to 225 low-income pregnant women to assess: (1) the prevalence and characteristics of confidantes, (2) the persuasiveness of confidante advice in general and with respect to smoking, specifically, and (3) the permissiveness of confidante smoking advice. Comparisons were made with doctors and partners. Most women (91.4%) identified a confidante, the majority of whom were their own mothers. Doctors were rated most persuasive in their general prenatal advice, followed by confidantes and partners (all differences, P < 0.05). A similar pattern was observed among prenatal smokers in relation to advice given about prenatal smoking. As compared to doctors, confidante advice was significantly more permissive of smoking during pregnancy. While women value their doctors' advice during pregnancy, close female friends and relatives also have an important and unique role. Educational efforts may be effective when directed at these advice-givers.