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Nutritional and Weight Management Behaviors in Low-Income Women Trying to Conceive

Berenson, Abbey B. MD, PhD; Pohlmeier, Ali M. PhD, RD; Laz, Tabassum H. PhD, MBBS; Rahman, Mahbubur MBBS, PhD; McGrath, Christine J. PhD, MPH

doi: 10.1097/AOG.0000000000000416
Contents: Original Research

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the nutritional habits and weight management strategies of women trying to conceive as compared with women not trying to conceive.

METHODS: This was a cross-sectional survey of health behaviors including nutritional habits and weight management strategies of women aged 16–40 years who were low income, racially diverse, (n=1,711), and attending reproductive health clinics. Multivariable logistic regression analyses were performed to examine the association between pregnancy intention and various health behaviors after adjusting for demographic variables, gravidity, and obesity status.

RESULTS: A total of 8.9% (n=153) of the participants stated they were trying to get pregnant. Women trying to conceive were more likely than those not trying to have participated in a number of unhealthy weight loss practices in the past year. These included taking diet pills, supplements, or herbs (13.5% compared with 8.8%; adjusted odds ratio [OR] 1.97, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.11–3.49), using laxatives or diuretics or inducing vomiting (7.7% compared with 3.0%; adjusted OR 2.70, CI 1.23–5.91), and fasting for 24 hours (10.7% compared with 5.5%; adjusted OR 2.15, CI 1.03–4.51). There were no significant differences between the two groups in amount of exercise, current smoking status, or current alcohol consumption Furthermore, fruit, green salad and other vegetables, and intake of soda and fast food were unrelated to pregnancy intention.

CONCLUSION: This study highlights that women trying to conceive are more likely to participate in unhealthy and potentially dangerous weight loss practices than women not trying to conceive.


Women trying to become pregnant are more likely to participate in unhealthy weight loss practices than women who are not trying to become pregnant.

Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Center for Interdisciplinary Research in Women's Health, University of Texas Medical Branch, Galveston, Texas.

Corresponding author: Abbey B. Berenson, MD, PhD, 301 University Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77550-0587, e-mail:

Federal support for this study was provided by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) to Dr. Ali M. Pohlmeier as a National Research Service Award postdoctoral fellow under an institutional training grant (T32HD055163; Principal Investigator: A. B. Berenson). Dr. McGrath is supported by a research career development award (K12HD052023: Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women's Health Program) from the Office of Research on Women's Health, the Office of the Director, the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, and the NICHD at the National Institutes of Health.

The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the NICHD or the National Institutes of Health.

Financial Disclosure The authors did not report any potential conflicts of interest.

© 2014 by The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.