Effects of Maternal Mental Health on Engagement in Favorable Health Practices During Pregnancy

Jeanne L. Alhusen, Lauren Ayres, Kelli Depriest

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: A woman's health practices during pregnancy are associated with maternal and neonatal outcomes. Yet limited research has examined predictors of a woman's engagement in favorable health practices, particularly in pregnant women at greatest risk for adverse outcomes. We examined the role of mental health on engagement in favorable health practices during pregnancy in a sample of pregnant, low-income, predominantly African American women. Methods: A convenience sample of pregnant women was obtained from 3 obstetric clinics within a large Mid-Atlantic academic health system. Pregnant women (N = 166) completed measures of depression, social support, and engagement in favorable health practices during their second trimester. Six domains of health practices (ie, balance of rest and exercise, safety measures, nutrition, substance use, health care access, access to pregnancy-related information) were assessed by the Health Practices in Pregnancy Questionnaire-II. Multiple linear regression was used to examine predictors of engagement in favorable health practices. Results: Fifty-nine percent of the study participants experienced depressive symptomatology during pregnancy. Multivariate linear regression modeling demonstrated that increased depressive symptoms, decreased social support, young age, and prepregnancy overweight or obesity were significant predictors of nonengagement in favorable health practices during pregnancy. Discussion: Findings suggest that pregnant women with poor mental health (eg, depressive symptomatology, poor social support) and specific sociodemographic characteristics (eg, young age, prepregnancy overweight or obesity) were less likely to engage in favorable health practices during pregnancy. Health care providers are uniquely positioned to assess a woman's mental health and related indicators to optimize pregnancy and neonatal outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)210-216
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of Midwifery and Women's Health
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2016


  • African American
  • Antenatal depression
  • Health practices
  • Obesity
  • Pregnancy
  • Social support

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Obstetrics and Gynecology
  • Maternity and Midwifery

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