by Vivian Lyall, Lindsay Wolfson, Natasha Reid, Nancy Poole, Karen M. Moritz, Sonya Egert, Annette J. Browne and Deborah A. Askew.
Understanding the factors that contribute to women’s alcohol use in pregnancy is critical to supporting women’s health and wellness and preventing Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. A systematic review of qualitative studies involving pregnant and recently postpartum women was undertaken to understand the barriers and facilitators that influence alcohol use in pregnancy (PROSPERO: CRD42018098831).
Twenty-seven (n = 27) articles were identified through EMBASE, CINAHL, PsycINFO, PubMed and Web of Science. The included articles were thematically analyzed using NVivo12. The analysis was informed by Canada’s Action Framework for Building an Inclusive Health System to articulate the ways in which stigma and related barriers are enacted at the individual, interpersonal, institutional and population levels.
Five themes impacting women’s alcohol use, abstention and reduction were identified: (1) social relationships and norms; (2) stigma; (3) trauma and other stressors; (4) alcohol information and messaging; and (5) access to trusted equitable care and essential resources.
The impact of structural and systemic factors on prenatal alcohol use was largely absent in the included studies, instead focusing on individual choice. This silence risks perpetuating stigma and highlights the criticality of addressing intersecting structural and systemic factors in supporting maternal and fetal health.