Scientific article
Open access

Pregnancy as a transition: first‐time expectant couples′ experience with alcohol consumption

Published inDrug and alcohol review, vol. 38, no. 7, p. 758-765
Publication date2019-08-23
First online date2019-08-23

Introduction and Aims

Most official healthcare guidelines apply the precautionary principle by recommending that pregnant women abstain from any alcohol consumption. However, a number of women continue drinking alcohol while pregnant. The aim of this study was to investigate couples′ experiences of the issue of alcohol consumption during pregnancy as a transitional process.

Design and Methods

Thirty semi-directive joint interviews were conducted with couples expecting their first child in Switzerland. Interviews were analysed thematically with the help of ATLAS.ti.


Couples endorsed the imperative of changing drinking habits and all the women reduced their alcohol consumption, although some reported difficulties. First, we identified three themes describing how couples experienced the woman′s change of drinking habits as a smooth transition: Internalisation of risk discourses, abstinence as a social norm and embodiment of alcohol aversion. Second, we emphasised four kinds of difficulties that couples encountered in their everyday lives: burden of risk discourses, conflicting advice, social occasions and desire for alcohol.

Discussion and Conclusions

This paper makes a significant contribution by examining prenatal drinking change as a transition. In this conceptualisation, the change of alcohol consumption is a relational process that is shaped by multiple changes and social norms. Our findings have important implications for practice. First, health professionals should be aware of the difficulties women experience when they abstain from alcohol during pregnancy. Second, our findings suggest the importance of a patient-centred approach that considers the role of the partner in supporting a pregnant woman′s change of alcohol consumption.

  • Alcohol
  • Couples
  • Pregnancy
  • Qualitative study
  • Transition
Affiliation Not a UNIGE publication
Citation (ISO format)
GOUILHERS, Solene et al. Pregnancy as a transition: first‐time expectant couples′ experience with alcohol consumption. In: Drug and alcohol review, 2019, vol. 38, n° 7, p. 758–765. doi: 10.1111/dar.12973
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Article (Published version)
ISSN of the journal0959-5236

Technical informations

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