Understanding of the use of alcohol in pregnancy amongst women in Scotland

Ford, Katharine
Understanding of the use of alcohol in pregnancy amongst women in Scotland. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis examines the use of alcohol in pregnancy amongst women in Scotland, post the introduction of a recommendation for abstinence in 2007 from alcohol during pregnancy. There is an ongoing debate over this recommendation, with some researchers highlighting abstinence as the safest choice but others indicating that such advice may generate excess fear and stress to mothers and can also be a way of stigmatising and controlling women. I argue that an increase in women’s alcohol consumption has also initiated a marked increase in attention towards the role of alcohol in women’s lives and the risks of drinking alcohol during pregnancy. This growing emphasis of the concern towards women drinking during pregnancy has come from the extension of the medicalisation of motherhood and the perception that the maternal-foetal relationship is strained. Biographical narrative interviews with 22 women in Edinburgh and Inverness are used to explore women's alcohol consumption during pregnancy in Scotland. Primarily with the aim to further the understanding of the social and cultural context of women’s alcohol consumption during pregnancy by examining women’s attitudes towards drinking during pregnancy and their awareness of the risks of consuming alcohol during pregnancy. It is my contention that there are many complex themes involved in women’s choices around drinking during pregnancy and that the change to abstinence has further led to the messages women receive being inconsistent, which leaves women in a state of confusion. I maintain that it is important that we recognise that women have different attitudes towards alcohol. Women cannot associate themselves with generalised statements about harm and risk. I explore how women respond to health interventions and their attitudes towards existing public health campaigns and health interventions. Consequently, I contend that women in this study reveal mixed attitudes towards these interventions as they often feel they gloss over the individuality of these decisions and their complexity within women’s lives by using a ‘one size fits all’ approach. Women therefore challenged the notion of harm and the evidence base behind the guidance, leading to a lack of confidence in the medical profession and an increasing reliance on lay health beliefs. It also draws upon the often overlooked importance of pleasure in women’s choices around alcohol consumption. The study highlights the importance of women’s experience, and the necessity of talking to women to further understand what influences their decision making around alcohol consumption during pregnancy. I argue that an attempt to trigger concern in pregnant women is inappropriate because of the lack of evidence into the risks caused by even moderate alcohol consumption.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Additional Information: Date: 2013-10 (completed)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Alcohol, Pregnancy, Motherhood, FAS, Scotland, Policy
Subjects: ?? HM ??
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Law and Social Justice
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 10 Feb 2014 17:09
Last Modified: 16 Dec 2022 04:40
DOI: 10.17638/00013621
URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/13621