Several factors can put a pregnant woman at risk for physical or health problems. First, depending on the financial or socioeconomic situation of a pregnant woman, she may not have reliable access to prenatal care. Prenatal care is essential in ensuring that pregnant women deliver their baby without complications for the baby and the mother. According to the Association of Maternal and Child Health Programs, only 70% of women received adequate prenatal care. Further, barriers to receiving prenatal care such as financial barriers like not having insurance, failure of facilities that low income women rely on for prenatal care to provide quality care, problems in prenatal services themselves, and cultural factors that prevent women from accepting prenatal care. For example, in some Hispanic and Asian cultures, women will not allow a male doctor to do a pelvic exam and some cultures view pregnancy to be a normal process that does not require any additional medical help.
Second, many women are at risk for remaining in an unstable home both before and after pregnancy due to domestic violence situations. Statistically, between four to eight women experience domestic violence during pregnancy. The number jumps drastically to over 50 percent more once the child is born. According to the National Coalition for Domestic Abuse (NVADV), 1.5 million women are in abusive relationships, which result in rape and many unwanted pregnancies. Many of these women are under the age of 20 and have limited or no access to healthcare, money, resources or transportation. Often they have nowhere else to go so they remain in the home with their abuser. Without access to proper medical care mothers are going without prenatal care, which can result in pregnancy complications such as “low weight gain, anemia, infections and first and second trimester bleeding”. In addition to this, domestic violence abusers often engage in physiological warfare where victims fear leaving their partners, even if it means exposing themselves or their fetus to drug use, tobacco or alcohol during pregnancy. This means that the child is more likely to develop conditions like Fetal Alcohol Syndrome or heavy developmental delays. Mothers are more susceptible to mental health concerns, such as depression, which often goes untreated as well.
Third, pregnant women are at risk for nutritional deficiencies if they have limited or no access to healthy food options before, during, or after their pregnancy. Nutrients like vitamins and minerals are important for normal cellular function. These nutrients are essential for women who are pregnant, in order to promote good health for the baby and for preventing any genetic diseases that may occur. Women who are in lower economic status often enter pregnancy malnourished, due to the lack of ability to purchase vitamins, mineral and health options. These may cause harmful health consequences on the baby in utero. For example, folic acid is important for preventing neural tube defects. Without folic acid, the fetus falls at risk for developing spina bifida. Having these nutritional deficiencies put the fetus at risk for developing lifelong health consequences.
Fourth, a woman’s socioeconomic status plays a major role in affecting a mothers pregnancy. It is seen that pregnancy consequences of poverty often set a fetus in utero and/or newborn child on a course of troubles in health outcomes. According to Charles P Larson, MD, “Included are greatly increased risks for preterm birth, intrauterine growth restriction, and neonatal or infant death”. When pregnant women live in poverty it is known to lead to major health related issues involving not only the mother but as well as the fetus.
Poverty is also associated with social risk factors not only physical. “Poverty has been associated with increased total fertility rates, unintended or teenage pregnancy and being a single mother”. It is found when a woman grows up in poverty it actually increases the risk for teen pregnancy. Bad social habits also are seen to stem from living in poverty. “When compared with higher income women, those living in poverty were more likely to smoke, to have poorer dietary habits, lower levels of education, and engage in higher risk and health-demoting practices”. As we know things like smoking and poor dietary habits majorly increase health risks for both the mother and fetus during pregnancy.
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