The authors declare that they have no competing interests.
All authors made contributions to the concept and design of the study. JS conceived the idea for the study, coordinated data collection, conducted the interviews, conducted the analysis under the guided supervision of EHN and SA, and drafted the manuscript. SA and EHN participated in interpretation of the findings and revised the manuscript. All authors read and approved of the final version of the manuscript.
Consensus is that fetal exposure to alcohol is harmful. Abstinence while trying to conceive and throughout pregnancy is recommended. Despite this, there are many women who consume alcohol around conception and until pregnancy recognition. The aim of this study was to explore the voice of non-pregnant women concerning alcohol consumption and its relation to pregnancy.
Data were collected through seven focus groups interviews with 34 women of fertile age, who were neither pregnant nor mothers. Semi-structured interviews were undertaken, recorded and transcribed verbatim and then analysed using thematic analysis.
Three main themes were identified in the analysis: an issue that cannot be ignored; awareness and uncertainty concerning alcohol and pregnancy; and transition to parenthood. Alcohol was an integral part of the women’s lives. A societal expectation to drink alcohol was prevalent and the women used different strategies to handle this expectation. Most women agreed not to drink alcohol during pregnancy although their knowledge on the specific consequences was scanty and they expressed a need for more information. Most of the participants found drinking alcohol during pregnancy to be irresponsible and saw pregnancy as a start of a new way of life.
Social expectations concerning women’s alcohol use change with pregnancy when women are suddenly expected to abstain. Although most study participants shared an opinion for zero tolerance during pregnancy, their knowledge regarding consequences of drinking during pregnancy were sparse. In order for prospective mothers to make informed choices, there is a need for public health initiatives providing information on the relationship between alcohol consumption and reproduction.