Analyzing Questions About Alcohol in Pregnancy Using Web-Based Forum Topics: Qualitative Content Analysis

Nessie Felicia Frennesson, Julie Barnett, Youssouf Merouani, Angela Attwood, Luisa Zuccolo, Cheryl McQuire

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Prenatal alcohol exposure represents a substantial public health concern as it may lead to detrimental outcomes, including pregnancy complications and fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. Although UK national guidance recommends abstaining from alcohol if pregnant or planning a pregnancy, evidence suggests that confusion remains on this topic among members of the public, and little is known about what questions people have about consumption of alcohol in pregnancy outside of health care settings.

OBJECTIVE: This study aims to assess what questions and topics are raised on alcohol in pregnancy on a web-based UK-based parenting forum and how these correspond to official public health guidelines with respect to 2 critical events: the implementation of the revised UK Chief Medical Officers' (CMO) low-risk drinking guidelines (2016) and the first COVID-19 pandemic lockdown (2020).

METHODS: All thread starts mentioning alcohol in the "Pregnancy" forum were collected from Mumsnet for the period 2002 to 2022 and analyzed using qualitative content analysis. Descriptive statistics were used to characterize the number and proportion of thread starts for each topic over the whole study period and for the periods corresponding to the change in CMO guidance and the COVID-19 pandemic.

RESULTS: A total of 395 thread starts were analyzed, and key topics included "Asking for advice on whether it is safe to consume alcohol" or on "safe limits" and concerns about having consumed alcohol before being aware of a pregnancy. In addition, the Mumsnet thread starts included discussions and information seeking on "Research, guidelines, and official information about alcohol in pregnancy." Topics discussed on Mumsnet regarding alcohol in pregnancy remained broadly similar between 2002 and 2022, although thread starts disclosing prenatal alcohol use were more common before the introduction of the revised CMO guidance than in later periods.

CONCLUSIONS: Web-based discussions within a UK parenting forum indicated that users were often unclear on guidance and risks associated with prenatal alcohol use and that they used this platform to seek information and reassurance from peers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e58056
JournalJMIR infodemiology
Publication statusPublished - 20 Jun 2024

Bibliographical note


Data Availability Statement

Because the site contents are copyright of Mumsnet, publishing a data set collecting posts or threads is not possible (refer to “Copyright” [58]). Instead, the summary statistics or analysis results will be published via data.bris.


  • Humans
  • Pregnancy
  • Female
  • Alcohol Drinking/epidemiology
  • United Kingdom/epidemiology
  • COVID-19/prevention & control
  • Internet
  • Qualitative Research
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders/epidemiology
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Social Media

Cite this