Associations between maternal health literacy and prenatal care and pregnancy outcome

Shahnaz Kohan, Saadat Ghasemi, Maryam Dodangeh


Background: Health literacy includes the ability to understand instructions come from health workers and units, cognitive
and social skills and the competence to use such information and services in ways, which are health-enhancing. Antenatal
care is an important key for a healthy maternity. Maternal health literacy and particular cognitive and social skills
required for healthy maternity include abilities to detect risk factors and taking actions for healthier life style and better
nutrition during pregnancy. The association between maternal health literacy and outcome of pregnancy has been investigated
in this study.
Methods: This descriptive study was carried out in Isfahan Beheshti hospital in 2005. 150 parturient were selected randomly
in postpartum ward based on inclusion criteria. Women with medical sciences education, 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% were classified as having low, 48% moderate
and 18% good maternal health literacy. Women with adequate health literacy had significant difference in starting earlier
and frequency of antenatal care, neonatal birth weight, mother hematocrit (HCT), ferrous and folic acid tablet consumption,
pregnancy weight gain, gestational age at birth, method of delivery and breastfeeding. Other birth outcomes
were similar between groups.
Conclusion: Our findings suggest that good health literacy among pregnant women is associated with good pregnancy
outcome and the fact that 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 simple language, and provision of pregnant women with oral and video instruction in addition
to written educational materials are highly recommended.
Key words: Maternal health literacy, prenatal care, pregnancy outcomes

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