Issues: Numerous studies have explored alcohol consumption in pregnancy, but less is known about women's drinking in the early parenting period (EPP, 0–5 years after childbirth). We synthesise research related to three questions: (i) How are women's drinking patterns and trajectories associated with socio‐demographic and domestic circumstances?; (ii) What theoretical approaches are used to explain changes in consumption?; (iii) What meanings have been given to mothers' drinking? Approach: Three databases (Ovid‐MEDLINE, Ovid‐PsycINFO and CINAHL) were systematically searched. Citation tracking was conducted in Web of Science Citation Index and Google Scholar. Eligible papers explored mothers' alcohol consumption during the EPP, focusing on general population rather than clinical samples. Studies were critically appraised and their characteristics, methods and key findings extracted. Thematic narrative synthesis of findings was conducted. Key Findings: Fourteen quantitative and six qualitative studies were identified. The (sub)samples ranged from n = 77,137 to n = 21 women. Mothers' consumption levels were associated with older age, being White and employed, not being in a partnered relationship, higher education and income. Three theoretical approaches were employed to explain these consumption differences: social role, role deprivation, social practice theories. By drinking alcohol, mothers expressed numerous aspects of their identity (e.g., autonomous women and responsible mothers). Implications and Conclusion: Alcohol‐related interventions and policies should consider demographic and cultural transformations of motherhood (e.g., delayed motherhood, changes in family structures). Mothers' drinking should be contextualised carefully in relation to socio‐economic circumstances and gender inequalities in unpaid labour. The focus on peer‐reviewed academic papers in English language may limit the evidence.
Original languageEnglish
JournalDrug and Alcohol Review
Early online date27 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 27 Mar 2023


  • alcohol
  • gender
  • mothers
  • parental drinking
  • scoping review


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