Background During the 1990s, most Western countries officially recommended that pregnant women abstain from alcohol. However, information about the potentially harmful effects of alcohol during pregnancy does not necessarily equate to understanding, and information and knowledge may not be associated with pregnant women's own attitudes toward drinking.
Methods From October to December 1998, we interviewed 439 Danish-speaking pregnant women who were referred for routine antenatal care at their first visit at 15 to 16 weeks of gestation. The women were interviewed about their attitudes toward and beliefs and knowledge about drinking during pregnancy. Questions were also asked about information on alcohol provided to the women.
Results Seventy-six percent of the women considered some alcohol intake during pregnancy to be acceptable, mostly on a weekly level. Binge drinking, however, was considered to be harmful by 85%. These attitudes were not associated with knowledge about the official recommendation or whether the woman had talked to her general practitioner or midwife about alcohol during pregnancy. Most of the women had received information on alcohol from the mass media or relatives, but most women believed that information about alcohol during pregnancy could best be communicated to them by health personnel. Only 21% were aware of the official recommendation from the Danish National Board of Health. One third had discussed alcohol with their general practitioner or midwife, but these women had mostly been advised that some alcohol intake was acceptable.
Conclusions Most of the women considered some alcohol intake during pregnancy to be acceptable, mostly on a weekly level, and their attitudes were independent of their knowledge about the subject. Most of the women had not been informed about alcohol during pregnancy.