While much attention has been paid to women's drinking during pregnancy, few studies address a woman's drinking once she has given birth, which presents potential dangers to herself and her child. This time of transition can be extremely stressful, potentially leading to problem drinking. On the other hand, this new role and change in lifestyle may be protective against alcohol use and abuse. We used the California Women's Health Survey (CWHS), a randomized sample of adult women in California, to compare new mothers' drinking behaviors to other women. In order to obtain a large enough sample to observe trends in subpopulations, we combined CWHS data from years 1997-2008 (n = 28,537 women aged 18-48). We used logistic regression to determine the individual-level characteristics that best predicted the outcomes postpartum and to compare new mothers (those with a child in the household <1 year and pregnant in the last 5 years) to other women for any alcohol use, heavy episodic drinking and number of days of alcohol use. New mothers were significantly less likely to engage in all behavior outcomes after adjustment for race/ethnicity, income, employment, education, age, and marital status, though new mothers who are not married and those in higher income brackets were identified as groups at higher risk of drinking. Although new motherhood could prove to be a risk factor for some women, we found that being a new mother is protective against all measures of drinking.
Alcohol use patterns among postpartum women