A new study has found that women who live in homes where safe, nutritious food is hard to come by have poorer pregnancy outcomes than women who have easy access to nutritious food throughout their pregnancy. It’s no surprise that past studies have shown that women who live in homes where there is a lack of money to buy nutritional food are at greater risk for malnutrition. It may come as more of a surprise to discover that these same women report more obesity and obesity related problems than women who don’t fear having access to good food. A woman who is overweight or obese before becoming pregnant is at risk for a number of poor pregnancy outcomes, larger birth weight babies and gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM).
The study, published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association, followed 810 women throughout their pregnancy. Of the women studied, 76% were from food secure households, 14% were from marginally food secure households and 10% were from food insecure households. Although the women were well matched in demographics, the women from the food insecure homes were more likely to be single, black, have less education and report being overweight or obese before pregnancy.
The study found that women who were from even marginally food insecure homes where twice as likely to have higher weight gain and develop gestational diabetes during their pregnancies. This is an important finding because GDM affects both the mother and baby. Babies of mothers who suffer from GDM tend to have higher birth weights and be at risk for other problems. Mothers who test positive for GDM while pregnant are twice as likely to develop Type II diabetes later in life.
The results of this study emphasizes the need for continued public health programs aimed at identifying and reaching out to women at risk to provide high-quality nutritious food throughout their pregnancy.
If you know a mother-to-be that might be struggling financially and need some help maintaining a healthy diet during pregnancy, please encourage them to visit The Emergency Food Assistance Program website. Information on eligibility and how to apply can be found here.