Weaved into the cultural fabric: a qualitative exploration of alcohol consumption during pregnancy among tribal women in Odisha, India

Research paper by Sanghamitra Pati, Abhimanyu Singh Chauhan, Pranab Mahapatra, Devraj Hansdah, Krushna Chandra Sahoo, Sandipana Pati

Indexed on: 28 Feb '18Published on: 20 Feb '18Published in: Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy


Evidence-based research has documented the association between alcohol intake during pregnancy and increased risk of miscarriage, stillbirth and congenital birth defects. Alcohol consumption is a complex behavior whose origins lay in cultural norms and the social structure. In tribal communities in India, alcohol misuse among women is a public health problem. This study is intended to explore perceptions and beliefs among tribal women and the community towards alcohol consumption during pregnancy.A qualitative study was conducted in a tribal-dominated district of Odisha, India. The WHO AUDIT tool was used to identify women who consumed alcohol during their pregnancies. In-depth interviews were conducted with 19 eligible women and 18 family members. Additionally, two focused group discussions were held with local community leaders and health workers. The data was transcribed, systematically coded and analyzed following the thematic framework approach.The findings suggest that a complex interplay of drivers contributes to the unrestricted intake of alcohol by pregnant women. This could be attributed to: a lack of social monitoring, easy access to alcohol, low alcohol literacy and alcohol’s normative status in daily customs and traditions. Another contributing factor is a community-wide perception that home-made alcohol poses no ill effects.Alcohol consumption is deeply embedded in the daily rituals of indigenous tribal women. To address this issue, community counselling utilizing platforms of RMNCHA and VHND could be Ideal. A well-designed, culture-based intervention encompassing alcohol researchers, mental health specialists, public health workers and anthropologists is necessary.