Effectiveness of a practice change intervention in reducing alcohol consumption in pregnant women attending public maternity services

Tsang, T.W., Kingsland, M., Doherty, E. et al. Effectiveness of a practice change intervention in reducing alcohol consumption in pregnant women attending public maternity services. Subst Abuse Treat Prev Policy 17, 63 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13011-022-00490-2



The aim of this study was to examine the effect of a practice change intervention to support the implementation of guideline-recommended care for addressing alcohol use in pregnancy on self-reported alcohol use during pregnancy.


A randomized, stepped-wedge controlled trial in three clusters (sectors) within the Hunter New England Local Health District (NSW, Australia). We evaluated a practice change intervention that supported the introduction of a new model of care for reducing alcohol use in pregnancy, consistent with local and international guidelines, and implemented in random order across the sectors. Each week throughout the study period, pregnant women who attended any public antenatal services within the previous week, for a 27–28 or 35–36 week gestation visit, were randomly sampled and invited to participate in the survey. The intended intervention for all women was Brief advice (to abstain from alcohol and information about potential risks). Women identified as medium-risk alcohol consumers using the Alcohol Use Disorder Identification Test-Consumption (AUDIT-C) were to be offered referral to a phone coaching service, and women identified as high-risk were to be offered referral to a Drug and Alcohol Service. Rates of self-reported alcohol use (AUDIT-C risk level and special occasion drinking) were summarized and compared in groups of women pre-intervention and post-intervention using multivariable logistic regression.


Surveys were completed by 1309 women at pre-intervention and 2540 at post-intervention. The majority of women did not drink during pregnancy (pre-intervention: 89.68%; post-intervention: 90.74%). There was no change in the proportion of women classified as No risk from drinking (AUDIT-C score = 0) or Some risk from drinking (AUDIT-C score ≥ 1) pre- or post-intervention (p = 0.08). However, a significant reduction in special occasion drinking was observed (pre-intervention: 11.59%; post-intervention: 8.43%; p < 0.001).


Special occasion drinking was reduced following implementation of guideline-recommended care. Failure to change other patterns of alcohol use in pregnancy may reflect barriers to implementing the model of care in antenatal care settings and the need to address other social determinants of alcohol use.

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