COVID-19 pandemic-related trauma symptoms are associated with postpartum alcohol consumption

Olivia Doyle, Elizabeth K. Wood, Elinor L. Sullivan, Kristen Mackiewicz-Seghete, Alice Graham, Hanna C. Gustafsson, COVID-19 pandemic-related trauma symptoms are associated with postpartum alcohol consumption, General Hospital Psychiatry, 2023,
ISSN 0163-8343,



The COVID-19 pandemic has led to escalations in substance use, including alcohol consumption. Of particular concern are the potential impacts during the postpartum period, a time of heightened vulnerability to stress and potential transmission of the negative sequelae of substance use to offspring. However, postpartum alcohol consumption during the COVID-19 pandemic has not been well characterized.


Postpartum drinking habits and COVID-19-related stress were repeatedly assessed (every two weeks for 12 weeks, and at one-, six-, and 12-months postpartum) from N=378 individuals during the COVID-19 pandemic. Average alcohol use trajectories and heterogeneity in trajectories were characterized. COVID-19-related trauma symptoms and coping were examined in relation to alcohol use over time.


Average postpartum alcohol use included an initial quadratic increase from one-to-four-months postpartum, followed by a plateau between four-to-12-months. Higher (15.08%), moderate (26.90%), and lower consumption (57.90%) subgroups were identified. Endorsement of COVID-19-related trauma symptoms and using alcohol to cope with stress predicted higher consumption.


Findings suggest a potential sensitive period in establishing postpartum alcohol use patterns from one-to-four-months postpartum. Findings further suggest that postpartum alcohol use is heterogenous and that individual response to major traumatic stressors, like the COVID-19 pandemic, may influence emerging patterns of postpartum alcohol use.

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