Brief Intervention Reduces Alcohol Consumption among Postpartum Women

The postpartum period is an effective time to counsel women about alcohol use, according to recent research. Investigators screened 8,706 women at their 45-day postpartum appointment and identified 235 as meeting inclusion criteria. That is, in the prior 28 days they (a) consumed 20 or more standard drinks,* (b) consumed alcohol on 20 or more days, or (c) had four or more standard drinks on four or more occasions. (Only those in group c necessarily consumed more than the recommended limits set by the federal government of the U.S.)

The researchers then randomly assigned the 235 women to a control or to an experimental group. The control group received usual care whereas the experimental group received brief intervention. The latter consisted of two 15-minute counseling visits a month apart with a follow-up telephone call two weeks after each interview.

Prior 28-day consumption at the beginning of the study was compared to prior 28-day consumption at the end of six months. Women who received the brief intervention reported significantly greater reductions compared to controls in (a) number of drinks consumed (14.2 versus 5.1), number of drinking days (3.4 versus 1.2) and number of days consuming four or more drinks (1.8 versus .05).

Implicit is the assumption that drinking alcohol in moderation after childbirth is undesirable. However, light and moderate drinking is associated with better health and greater longevity than is either abstaining or abusing alcohol. Unless contraindicated because of pregnancy, addiction or other reasons, not drinking alcohol increases women's risk of poor health and shorter life.

*Standard drinks of alcohol are:
  • A 12 ounce bottle or can of beer
  • A five-ounce glass of dinner wine
  • A shot (1.5) ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits (whiskey, rum, gin, tequila, vodka, etc.) straight or in a mixed drink.

Remember: Standard drinks each contain an equivalent amount of alcohol (0.6 ounces).

Note: This website does not provide dietary, medical, or other advice or opinion and none should be inferred. For such advice consult a qualified professional who knows you and your situation.


  • Fleming, M. F. et al. The Healthy Moms Study: The efficacy of brief alcohol intervention in postpartum women, Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 2008, 32(9), 1600-1606.

Filed Under: Health