Discrimination and Excessive Weight Gain During Pregnancy Among Black and Latina Young Women

By Cayla Scheintaub


Fatigue. Nausea. Headaches. Dizziness. These are just some of the burdensome physical symptoms that women experience during pregnancy. Some women also experience burdensome social interactions during pregnancy due to their race, ethnicity and/or age. This discrimination may lead to excessive weight gain and possible obesity of one’s child later on in life.

What do we know?

A great number of women gain weight beyond medical recommendations during pregnancy. Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is a determinant of obesity later on in life. Experiencing discrimination on a regular basis is related to an increase in waist size and abdominal fat over time and ultimately, leads to increased weight. Socio-demographic factors including race, ethnicity and age all pose a risk to excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Additionally, depressive symptoms may have an impact on excessive weight gain.

Who does this study concern?

In this study, there were a total of 413 young Black and Latina women; some were both Black and Latina. Data were collected from fourteen study sites in New York City. At these sites, the women received prenatal care. The study required that women be 14 to 21 years old, no more than 24 weeks pregnant, not a high-risk pregnancy and able to use English or Spanish.

What was found?

  • Having ever experienced discrimination was linked with a 71% increased odds in excessive weight gain during pregnancy
  • When the women had low depressive symptoms, discrimination predicted excessive weight gain. When women had high depressive symptoms, discrimination had NO association with excessive weight gain.

Overall, results demonstrate the role of discrimination in weight-related health inequalities and suggest opportunities for improving health outcomes among young pregnant women

What can we do in the future?

It is important that women receive regular, non-discriminatory healthcare during pregnancy to monitor for weight gain. Interventions should be developed to prevent the impact of discrimination on pregnant women, and to eliminate discrimination toward pregnant women. Discrimination and obesity are both problems in the U.S. and it is important to take precautionary measures against them.


Reference: Reid, A. E., Rosenthal, L., Earnshaw, V. A., Lewis, T. T., Lewis, J. B., Stasko, E. C., Tobin, J. N., & Ickovics, J. R. (2016) Discrimination and excessive weight gain during pregnancy among Black and Latina women. Social Science & Medicine, 156, 134-141. PMC4847945