Pregnant women negotiating the rocky landscape of poverty tend to gain weight and endure more medical complications, particularly gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM) than those who are better off financially, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association.
Household food insecurity which is the inability to obtain nutritious and safe foods on a regular basis, is increasingly recognized as an independent risk factor for many poor women. Prior studies have demonstrated that paradoxically, women living in food insecure households report higher rates of being overweight and related health complications, the report says.
"The present study was conducted to estimate the association between household food insecurity status and maternal health during pregnancy, when changes in both body weight and overall health can be dramatic," said Barbara A. Laraia, Ph.D., in the report. "Not only was living in a food insecure household associated with severe pregravid obesity -- a condition that broadly predisposes women to adverse pregnancy outcomes -- but also with greater gestational weight gain and gestational diabetes mellitus."
Researchers from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service in Washington, D.C., used data from the Pregnancy, Infection and Nutrition prospective cohort study. Eight hundred ten pregnant women with incomes less than 400 percent of the income/poverty ratio were followed through their pregnancies.
The income restriction, researchers said, allowed a better comparison among households that might have food insecurity due to financial and material constraints. Among the group, 76 percent were from fully food secure, 14 percent were from marginally food secure, and 10 percent were from food insecure households.
The authors recommend the continuation of public health efforts to provide adequate funding and outreach to those in need and advocate population-based programs and policies designed to ensure that pregnant women have access to high-quality, nutritious food.