Food insecurity and postpartum stress among Kenyan women

picture of fruits and vegetables
Stress during pregnancy and the postpartum period has been associated with adverse pregnancy outcomes, including postpartum depression, altered breastmilk quality, and poor infant health outcomes. Both stress and the uncertain access to nutritionally adequate and safe food have been linked to poor pregnancy and postpartum.

There is little prior research on food insecurity’s association with stress during pregnancy and postpartum. In new research, Bixby members explore patterns of food insecurity during pregnancy and postpartum and its relationship to postpartum stress in a region of Kenya with highly prevalent food insecurity.

From pregnancy through 6 months postpartum, women did not experience much variation in food insecurity. Rather, researchers determined that most women either experience persistent moderate food insecurity or persistent mild food insecurity. Experiencing moderate food insecurity was found to be associated with higher levels of postpartum stress compared to experiencing mild food insecurity.

These results highlight the importance of food insecurity as a risk factor for stress during a critical transitional period in women’s lives. Researchers directed future studies to look at long-term outcomes of this association to better understand the impact of food insecurity and stress on maternal, infant, and early child health outcomes. They also urged interventions to target food insecurity to help alleviate some postpartum stress and the associated poor health outcomes.