The health of women of child bearing age (WOCBA): Exploratory research
Summary of findings
- All women interviewed felt heavy demands were placed on them on a daily basis – looking after young children, running a home on a limited budget, stressful work etc.
- Typically, mothers placed the health and well-being of their partners and / or children before their own, with serious implications for their own diet and exercise.
- Lack of understanding of basic nutritional facts, limited budgets and a quest for convenience means that poor diet is a social norm within these communities.
- Healthy food is seen as expensive, and therefore, a prohibitive option.
- Diet during pregnancy was often driven by what women craved, rather than a conscious effort to eat better.
- Recommendations regarding diet focus on the need for increased information. However, the overwhelming need for convenience and low cost must also be recognised.
Women’s tendency to dismiss their own needs should also be addressed. (A list of suggestions is provided in the report).
- The link between physical health and pregnancy is weak amongst these women. Establishing this link is fundamental.
- A highly negative body image, self-consciousness and lack of confidence, combined with social / religious traditions amongst Asian women, further inhibit uptake of formal physical exercise.
- Smoking and alcohol play a variety of roles within the lives of the women interviewed. In the worse cases the women are highly dependent on smoking as a means of getting them through each day, and on alcohol to relieve the boredom of their lives. Parents and peers play a huge role in establishing social norms for smoking and drinking.
- Drinking during pregnancy seems an easier concept for the mothers interviewed than smoking. All at least agreed that binge drinking whilst pregnant was not a good thing.
- Smoking during pregnancy was more emotionally charged. Those who smoked during pregnancy often took measures to cut down, though some did not. These women spoke very emotionally about their smoking habit, and they did feel guilty about it.
- Key messages must be communicated about the impact of smoking and drinking on the unborn baby. It is a harsh approach, but appears the most effective way.
- In addition, sympathetic and accessible help should be available to those who wish to moderate their behaviour.
- Finally, many expressed a lack of trust and / or self-confidence with health officials or other local authority bodies. They are more likely to rely on their own trusted social network. This could help to play some part in the health issues suffered by these women.
The research set out to understand women’s behaviour and attitudes in four areas which have been identified as key drivers affecting foetal health – diet, physical activity and exercise, smoking and drinking alcohol.
In each case objectives were specifically to determine:
- The context of each of the four pillars
- The role that each pillar plays within an individual’s life, now and pre and post pregnancy
- The perceived benefits of changing behaviour – now and when pregnant
- The barriers to altering behaviour – now and when pregnant
In addition the research set out to understand how behaviour was / would be altered during pregnancy, perceived advantages to this and barriers preventing this, and the role of significant others within the women’s lives.
The government has a target to reduce the gap in infant mortality between manual and non-manual groups by 2010.
Kirklees has a higher than average incidence of infant mortality rates when compared to Yorkshire and Humber and to England generally, and in certain areas rates are increasing. Problems are particularly acute in four areas – Batley, Dewsbury, Huddersfield North and Spen.
Research to explore the behaviour and attitudes of women of child bearing age from areas of Kirklees with particularly high incidence of infant mortality.
Not specified, except that a subset of South Asian women was included
'A series of' groups and depth interviews held in April 2008. Not further specified.
The groups were moderated by female interviewers.
Data collection methodology
Batley, Dewsbury, Huddersfield North and Spen. (Specifically: MOSAIC postcode types D26, D24, D23)