To describe selected demographics; maternal health behaviors before, during, and after pregnancy; and infant health outcomes among homeless women in the United States.
Analyses are based on Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System data from 31 participating states from 2000 to 2007 that were linked to birth certificate data, which contain demographic and medical information collected through the state's vital records system. Responses were then weighted to be representative of all women who gave birth in each state during that year. Assessment of these data takes into account the complex sampling designs employed by the states.
Four percent of women reported homelessness within 12 months before pregnancy, with the highest percentage in Illinois, followed by Oregon and Washington. Homeless women were younger, unmarried, uninsured, less educated, less likely to initiate and sustain breastfeeding, and had less prenatal care and well-visits. They were also more likely to be black, Hispanic, smoke cigarettes, be underweight or have class III obesity, and not take preconception multivitamins. Infants had lower birth weights, a longer hospital stay, and were more likely to receive neonatal intensive care.
In this study we provide additional insight into homelessness in the perinatal period and provide information on ways to direct interventions aimed at improving the health of homeless mothers and infants. Additional research is needed to determine factors that influence pregnancy weight gain and infant feeding practices among homeless women and how this affects infant health.