What is it about?

At present, alcohol is the most common teratogen used during pregnancy and is involved in developmental abnormalities in newborns and children. To understand alcohol consumption during gestation, in this qualitative research, we conducted interviews with 14 women who drank during pregnancy, in which the trigger question was: ‘Why do you drink alcoholic beverages?’. We found that social motives (such as drinking to enjoy parties or facilitate social interaction) and enhancement motives (such as drinking to feel better) were recurrent. Motives for drinking specifically during pregnancy also emerged - some women found pregnancy a period of less opportunity for social interaction and, therefore, ended up drinking alcohol at home to compensate for it. Some women perceived pregnancy as a period of greater irritability and found it difficult to abstain. Women who did not drink at all or partly abstained were mainly concerned about the baby’s health but were also influenced by the disapproval of consumption by relatives and health professionals.

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Why is it important?

It is known that there is no safe amount of alcohol use during pregnancy and that the consumption can cause many different problems for children, including several types of disabilities. These disabilities are known as fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD) and are totally preventable if a baby is not exposed to alcohol before birth. Despite that, pregnant women’s alcohol consumption is common in many cultures, including Brazil, where it is estimated to range from 7 to 30% among all pregnant women. Understanding the motives to drink, as well as the reasons to abstain, is important so educational actions can be developed and interventions can be implemented, contributing to the maternal decision to abstain and, ultimately, preventing children’s disabilities.


As the field of qualitative research on alcohol consumption during pregnancy is still poorly explored, developing this work was a great and timely experience. I believe it has a great potential to inspire and instigate future work on such an important subject, giving voice to women and improving public health policies, as well as discussions between health care providers and patients, finally contributing to maternal-fetal health.

Julia Lustosa Martinelli
University of Campinas

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Motivation for alcohol consumption or abstinence during pregnancy: A clinical-qualitative study in Brazil, PLoS ONE, October 2019, PLOS,
DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0223351.
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