Alcohol consumption after pregnancy awareness and the additive effect of pregnancy-related anxiety and child abuse

Robyn Brunton, Rachel Dryer

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This study examined whether pregnant women alter their alcohol consumption upon pregnancy awareness and any additive effect of a maternal history of child abuse and pregnancy-related anxiety in predicting antenatal alcohol consumption. Pregnant women (N = 548, M = 31.44, SD = 4.58) completed an online survey consisting of the Pregnancy-related Anxiety Scale, Adverse Childhood Experience Questionnaire, questions on alcohol consumption and demographics. The Wilcoxon test examined difference scores between pre-pregnancy awareness and post-awareness drinking. More women reduced or ceased drinking after pregnancy awareness (M = 0.15, SD = 1.03) than before pregnancy recognition (M = 3.12, SD = 3.91). Only two women increased their alcohol consumption, with 140 reporting no change. In the hierarchical regression analysis, child abuse was not significant in the model, whereas pregnancy-related anxiety predicted alcohol consumption, with pre-pregnancy drinking the strongest predictor. There was no significant interaction effect between pregnancy-related anxiety and child abuse. While limited by a cross-sectional design and single questions to assess alcohol intake, our findings are consistent with extant literature. Findings related to child abuse were not significant, and likely due to low prevalence in the sample, Despite this, we further established that pregnancy-related anxiety remains a significant predictor of antenatal drinking regardless of how much alcohol a woman may consume pre-pregnancy. This relationship may be explained by drinking used to cope with pregnancy-related anxieties. While current guidelines recommend alcohol screening, many women may not accurately report their alcohol intake screening for pregnancy-related anxiety may provide an avenue to identify women more at risk of drinking during pregnancy.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages9
JournalCurrent Psychology
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2023


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