Skip to main content
Intellect

BYU study in Pediatrics: homelessness’ impact on mothers and babies

  • 4 percent of mothers were homeless at some point in the year prior to delivery and their babies had lower birth weights
  • They were less likely to take prenatal vitamins and decide to breastfeed and more likely to be underweight or obese before pregnancy
  • The study appears in the top pediatric medical journal

A BYU study appearing in Pediatrics found that pregnant women who were homeless at some point in a 12-month period leading up to their deliveries had babies with lower birth weights.

The study also found that homelessness before or during pregnancy led to a lower likelihood of mothers taking prenatal vitamins and deciding to breastfeed and a higher likelihood of mothers being underweight or obese prior to pregnancy.

The study’s lead author is Rickelle Richards, assistant professor of nutrition, dietetics, and food sciences. 

 “There have been other studies conducted on homelessness during pregnancy and how it relates to access to prenatal care,, or the effects of drug and alcohol abuse, but no one has looked at how many pregnant women across the United States may be affected by homelessness and how it influences maternal health behaviors during the pregnancy period and postpartum infant feeding practices,” said Richards. “We were interested in studying this so we could open doors for possible solutions.”

Prevention could include connecting homeless women with resources that promote positive maternal health behaviors before, during, and after pregnancy.

“If we can get homeless women in touch with the right resources, this could lead to babies with higher birth weights and help reduce the number of infants in neonatal intensive care units,” said Richards. “If we can do this, we can make a difference for so many families.  And not only in regards to women experiencing homelessness -- we can also help very low income families with a home-base.”

Examining data from 30 states, Richards and co-author Ray Merrill, BYU professor of health sciences, found that four percent of mothers reported experiencing homelessness within twelve months of delivery.  Homeless women were also younger, less educated, more likely to be uninsured, more likely to be unmarried, and less likely to receive adequate prenatal care than other mothers.

The framework for the data was compiled from 2000 to 2007 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention through the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) Program. Each participating PRAMS state collects survey data from women two to four months after a live birth.  A systematic sample of 100 to 250 women who met these criteria are selected from a set of eligible birth certificates to participate each month in each PRAMS site. Sites with at least a 70 percent response rate were included in this analysis.  Responses were then weighted to represent all women who gave birth in each state.

Richards’ interest in this topic began while she was researching homelessness in families for her Ph.D. dissertation. When she saw data on how difficult it is for homeless families to access  healthy, safe food, she started to wonder how this could affect pregnant women.

Laurie Baksh of the Utah Department of Health is also a co-author on the paper. 

Writer: Michelle Peterson Steele

Related Articles

data-content-type="article"

400 million voting records show persistent gaps in voter turnout by race, age, and political affiliation

August 10, 2022
A new study from BYU and the University of Virginia analyzed 400 million voter records from elections in 2014 and 2016 and found that minority citizens, young people, and those who support the Democratic Party are much less likely to vote than whites, older citizens, and Republican Party supporters. Moreover, those in the former groups are also more likely to live in areas where their neighbors are less likely to vote.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

BYU students design affordable water filtration device to help provide clean water in Pakistan

August 02, 2022
A group of BYU engineering students decided to use their expertise to help with water quality challenges in Pakistan. The team of capstone students designed a prototype for an affordable, easy-to-use water filtration device that could easily be sourced and built in the Asian country of 220 million.


overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
data-content-type="article"

Forum: Something about mental health

July 26, 2022
Carl L. Hanson, BYU professor of public health, delivered Tuesday's forum address on campus. He discussed how we can obtain optimal mental health by better understanding it ourselves and being willing to be an advocate for others who struggle with mental illness.
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText= overrideTextAlignment=
overrideBackgroundColorOrImage= overrideTextColor= overrideTextAlignment= overrideCardHideSection=false overrideCardHideByline=false overrideCardHideDescription=false overridebuttonBgColor= overrideButtonText=