Maternal drinking (alcohol use during pregnancy/motherhood) is a hidden public health concern which can have significant negative effects on the woman and child. This pilot survey explored several domains that might influence maternal drinking.
Subject and methods
Two cross-sectional, online surveys recruited (1) women who were pregnant and (2) mothers who were not pregnant. Surveys captured data on alcohol use and harmful drinking, attitudes on and motives for drinking/not drinking, and perceived barriers to drinking less. Content analysis of free text responses complemented quantitative data.
In this convenience sample of 836 pregnant women and 589 mothers, 91% of pregnant women and 28% of mothers reported abstinence. Of those reporting alcohol use, median consumption was 2.3 units/week in pregnant women, and 6.9 units/week in non-pregnant mothers. Of mothers currently drinking, 25.1% reported hazardous or harmful levels. Heavier drinking was associated with numerous motives, including using alcohol as a coping strategy. Child welfare was a key motivating factor for not drinking, as were practical issues of motherhood. The stresses of motherhood were a perceived barrier to reducing drinking, and mothers reported more barriers than pregnant women.
Stress reduction motives may be a risk factor for heavier maternal drinking, while motives for not drinking seem to be focused on child welfare and maternal well-being. Stress and a lack of knowledge about how to reduce drinking appear to be barriers for mothers to change their drinking behaviour. These findings can inform the development of effective public health interventions to reduce maternal drinking.