Home > Seeking ‘honest’ conversations online: how is alcohol and pregnancy talked about on Mumsnet?

Schölin, Lisa and Arkell, Rachel (2023) Seeking ‘honest’ conversations online: how is alcohol and pregnancy talked about on Mumsnet? IAS Blog,

External website: https://www.ias.org.uk/2023/11/14/seeking-honest-c...

We are two researchers from different disciplines (public health and medical law and ethics) with one common interest – the communication of risk related to exposures to teratogens (substances that can impact the development of a foetus if used during pregnancy). As there has to date been limited qualitative research seeking to understand how the CMO guidelines and subsequent policies are interpreted in relation to pregnancy, we set out to explore this topic on an online parenting forum.


Online forums are invaluable tools for researchers, as it offers an opportunity to explore naturally occurring discussions on seemingly ‘taboo’ pregnancy topics. Those who post may do so honestly and can share their thoughts and experiences anonymously. In traditional qualitative research, such as interview studies, so-called social desirability bias might influence participants to respond in a way they feel is socially acceptable rather than their actual experience or views. There is a growing discipline which explores how aspects of motherhood are both talked about and constructed in online spaces, where posters can speak under a guise of anonymity.


We therefore developed a project which had two aims:  1) to explore what posters discuss when talking about alcohol and pregnancy; and 2) how posters discuss these topics. In brief, our project draws on data collected from a sample of threads from Mumsnet from 2016 to 2021 which we analysed using discourse analysis.

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