An investigation into utilising gestational body mass index as a screening tool for adverse birth outcomes and maternal morbidities in a group of pregnant women in Khayelitsha

  • HR Davies
  • J Visser
  • M Tomlinson
  • MJ Rotheram-Borus
  • C Gissane
  • J Harwood
  • I LeRoux
Keywords: maternal nutritional status, birth outcomes, gestational body mass index, maternal morbidities


Objective: The aim of this study was to investigate the ability of the gestational body mass index (BMI) method to screen for adverse birth outcomes and maternal morbidities.
Design: This was a substudy of a randomised controlled trial, the Philani Mentor Mothers’ study.
Setting and subjects: The Philani Mentor Mothers’ study took place in a peri-urban settlement, Khayelitsha, between 2009 and 2010. Pregnant women living in the area in 2009-2010 were recruited for the study.
Outcome measures: Maternal anthropometry (height and weight) and gestational weeks were obtained at baseline to calculate the gestational BMI, which is maternal BMI adjusted for gestational age. Participants were classified into four gestational BMI categories: underweight, normal, overweight and obese. Birth outcomes and maternal morbidities were obtained from clinic cards after the births.
Results: Pregnant women were recruited into the study (n = 1 058). Significant differences were found between the different gestational BMI categories and the following birth outcomes: maternal (p-value = 0.019) infant hospital stay (p-value = 0.03), infants staying for over 24 hours in hospital (p-value = 0.001), delivery mode (p-value = 0.001), birthweight (p-value = 0.006), birth length (p-value = 0.007), birth head circumference (p-value = 0.007) and pregnancy-induced hypertension (p-value = 0.001).
Conclusion: To the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that has used the gestational BMI method in a peri-urban South African pregnant population. Based on the findings that this method is able to identify unfavourable birth outcomes, it is recommended that it is implemented as a pilot study in selected rural, peri-urban and urban primary health clinics, and that its ease and effectiveness as a screening tool is evaluated. Appropriate medical and nutritional advice can then be given to pregnant women to improve both their own and their infants’ birth-related outcomes and maternal morbidities.

Keywords: maternal nutritional status, birth outcomes, gestational body mass index, maternal morbidities


Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 2078-6204
print ISSN: 2078-6190