Associations between maternal health literacy and pregnancy outcomes

Shahnaz Kohan, S Ghasemi, Maryam Dodangeh


Introduction: Health literacy includes the ability to understand instructions that come from health workers and units, cognitive and social skills and the competence to use such information and services in health-enhancing ways. Antenatal care is an important key factor in maternity health. Maternal health literacy and cognitive and social skills required for maternity health include abilities to detect alarming signs and to take actions for providing healthier life style and better nutrition during pregnancy. The associations between maternal health literacy and outcome of pregnancy and birth were investigated in this study.

Methods: This research was a descriptive analytic study carried out in Isfahan Beheshti Hospital in 2005. A total of 150 parturients were selected randomly in postpartum ward based on inclusion criteria. Women who were educated in medical sciences or had chronic disease and pregnancy complications were excluded. Data were collected through questionnaires and analyzed with SPSS.

Results: Based on the scores they were given from the questionnaire, 34%, 48% and 18% were classified as having low, moderate and adequate maternal health literacy, respectively. Women with adequate health literacy were significantly better in having earlier and more frequent antenatal care, neonatal birth weight, mother HCT, ferrous tablet and folic acid consumption, pregnancy weight gain, gestational age at birth, method of delivery and. breastfeeding. Other birth outcomes were similar between the three groups of maternal health literacy.

Conclusion: Our study had adequate power to assess meaningful difference in pregnancy outcomes among the three levels of maternal health literacy. The findings suggested that adequate health literacy among pregnant women is associated with good pregnancy outcome and poor health literacy causes poor chance to gain a positive pregnancy outcome. A collaborative effort to increase maternal health literacy by assessing maternal health literacy levels in prenatal care unit, revision of educational materials into plain language, and provision of pregnant women with oral and video instruction in addition to written materials are highly recommended


Maternal health literacy, prenatal care, pregnancy outcomes


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