Findings of a pilot study of motivational interviewing with pregnant drinkers

J Stud Alcohol. 1999 Mar;60(2):285-7. doi: 10.15288/jsa.1999.60.285.


Objective: Cost-effective interventions are needed for counseling pregnant drinkers, in order to reduce risk of fetal alcohol effects.

Method: 42 pregnant women who reported alcohol consumption participated in this pilot study of motivational interviewing. Following a comprehensive alcohol use assessment, the participants were randomly assigned to receive either written information about the risks related to drinking during pregnancy or a one-hour motivational interview. The motivational interview was an empathic, client-centered, but directive session focusing on the health of the participants' unborn babies.

Results: At the end of a 2-month follow-up period, the 34 women (81%) who remained in the study showed a significant reduction in alcohol consumption and peak intoxication levels. Women who had reported the highest blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels during early pregnancy showed a significantly greater reduction in their estimated BACs at follow-up (during later pregnancy) if assigned to the treatment rather than the control condition.

Conclusions: Motivational interviewing shows promise as a specific intervention for initiating a reduction in drinking among pregnant women who are at greatest risk. Simpler assessment and advice may suffice for women with lower initial consumption levels.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Alcohol Drinking / adverse effects
  • Alcohol Drinking / blood
  • Alcohol Drinking / prevention & control*
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Counseling / methods
  • Counseling / standards*
  • Ethanol / blood
  • Female
  • Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Humans
  • Maternal Behavior / psychology*
  • Motivation*
  • Pilot Projects
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / prevention & control*
  • Sample Size
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Ethanol