Pregnancy warning labels on alcohol packaging: results of an exploratory study

A Millot, K Gallopel-Morvan
European Journal of Public Health, Volume 29, Issue Supplement_4, November 2019, ckz186.140,



In 2017, approximately 11% of pregnant women in France consumed alcohol despite its harmful consequences on the fetus (Andler, 2018). Our research aims at exploring the impact of warnings displayed on alcohol packaging: the current pictogram and alternative possible messages that differ regarding content and design will be explored.


In-depth interviews were conducted with 20 French women, including women who did not drink alcohol during their pregnancy, women who drank alcohol, women in pregnancy planning and breastfeeding mothers.
Questions were asked about the participants perception of drinking alcohol during pregnancy, alcohol warnings: the current pictogram, new contents (negative and positive) for warnings and new designs (different pictograms combined with or without text). A thematic content analysis was carried out.


The current pictogram lacks visibility and has no impact on the behaviour of the women.

New suggested contents were on the whole welcomed. It can be noted that some participants felt that specific messages (e.g. intellectual disabilities, facial malformations etc.) were a more effective way of preventing alcohol consumption during pregnancy than general ones. On the contrary, other participants felt that a general message such as ’Zero alcohol during pregnancy’, or positive messages such as a cessation service message, was more effective.
The majority of participants believed that pictograms with a better visibility; more eye-catching; vivid images of fetuses, etc., would have a greater impact on alcohol consumption.


This study highlights the need for changes to pictogram currently used on alcohol packaging in France. Our results show that recent changes proposed by the French government (a slight increase in the size of the current pictogram) will most likely have little effect on preventing alcohol consumption during pregnancy.

Key messages

• The current pictogram on alcohol bottles in France has little or no effect.
• The French government should implement new warnings both in terms of content and design.