Table of Contents
Epidemiology Research International
Volume 2011, Article ID 467265, 10 pages
Research Article

Prenatal Maternal Stress and Physical Abuse among Homeless Women and Infant Health Outcomes in the United States

1Department of Health Science, College of Life Sciences, Brigham Young University, 229-A RB, Provo, UT 84602, USA
2Department of Nutrition, Dietetics, & Food Science, College of Life Sciences, Brigham Young University, S-233 ESC, Provo, UT 84602, USA

Received 27 November 2010; Accepted 26 February 2011

Academic Editor: Kenji Wakai

Copyright © 2011 Ray M. Merrill et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Background. This study examines whether the relationship between maternal stress or abuse situations and infant birth weight differs between homeless and non-homeless women. Methods. Analyses are based on data from the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS), 2002–2007. Results. Homeless women were significantly more likely to experience stressful life events, abusive situations, and poor maternal health than non-homeless women during pregnancy. Birth weight among infants of homeless women was, on average, 17.4 grams lighter than for infants of non-homeless women, after adjusting for maternal age, race, ethnicity, region, education, and marital status. The impact of maternal health, stress, and abuse variables on pregnancy and infant birth weight significantly interacted with homeless status. For example, vaginal bleeding, nausea, kidney/bladder infection, and failure to receive early prenatal care had significantly larger negative impacts on birth weight among homeless women than non-homeless women. Infant birth weight was consistently lower among homeless women, more so when maternal stress and abuse were involved, across all classifications of their prepregnancy weight. Conclusion. Stress and abusive situations among pregnant women have a negative influence on pregnancy-related conditions and infant birth weight. However, this negative influence is even more pronounced among homeless women.