Changes in alcohol consumption during pregnancy and over the transition towards parenthood

Geoffrey Leggat, Michael Livingston, Sandra Kuntsche, Sarah Callinan, Changes in alcohol consumption during pregnancy and over the transition towards parenthood,
Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 2021,108745,
ISSN 0376-8716,


  • Piecewise regression evaluated drinking behaviours prior to and after childbirth.
  • Male and female drinking shifts significantly over the transition to parenthood.•
  • Female consumption nadirs during pregnancy and increases following.•
  • Education level significantly interacts with male partner postnatal drinking only.



To examine pre- to postnatal changes in drinking for women and men and assess the role of education level in these changes.


The transition towards parenthood can contribute to significant shifts in alcohol consumption for women and men. Research has generally focused on pregnancy and short-term changes following childbirth, usually for mothers only. Socio-economic variation in the impact of childbirth and return to drinking postnatally is similarly understudied.


Longitudinal alcohol consumption data for 2470 individuals (1248 female) who were pregnant, or the partner of a pregnant woman, were obtained from a representative, Australian survey for three years prior and following birth.

Piecewise regression models, including an education-x-time interaction, assessed changes in drinking quantity and frequency.


Female usual quantity and frequency significantly declined during pregnancy, followed by significant postnatal increases in quantity, approaching pre-pregnancy levels, with similar trends across education levels. Male usual quantity increased following childbirth, save for those men with a high-school education. Having an undergraduate degree was associated with a significant postnatal increase in drinking frequency.


Further awareness of the risks associated with male-partner drinking could provide substantial public health benefits. Successful facilitation and implementation of interventions and harm reduction strategies for harmful drinking over the pre- to postnatal period could benefit from further consideration of socioeconomic status and education level, particularly for men.

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