Discrimination and excessive weight gain during pregnancy among Black and Latina young women

Soc Sci Med. 2016 May;156:134-41. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2016.03.012. Epub 2016 Mar 14.


Rationale: Excessive weight gain during pregnancy is a major determinant of later life obesity among both Black and Latina women and their offspring. However, psychosocial determinants of this risk, including everyday discrimination, and potential moderators of such effects remain unexplored.

Objective: We examined the influence of discrimination, a culturally relevant stressor, on odds of gaining weight beyond Institute of Medicine recommendations during pregnancy. Whether the effect was moderated by race/ethnicity, age, or depressive symptoms was also examined.

Method: Participants were 413 Black and Latina pregnant young women, ages 14-21 years. Experience with discrimination and all moderators were assessed in the second trimester. Last weight recorded in the third trimester was abstracted from medical records and used to determine excessive weight gain.

Results: Ever experiencing discrimination was associated with a 71% increase in the odds of excessive weight gain. The effect of discrimination was primarily present among women who attributed this treatment to membership in a historically oppressed group (e.g., ethnic minority, female) or to membership in other stigmatized groups (e.g., overweight). The effect of ever experiencing discrimination was not moderated by race/ethnicity or age but was moderated by depressive symptoms. Supporting the perspective of the environmental affordances model, discrimination strongly predicted excessive weight gain when women were low in depressive symptoms but had no effect when women were high in depressive symptoms. The moderating role of depressive symptoms was equivalent for Black and Latina women.

Conclusion: Results highlight the role of discrimination in perpetuating weight-related health disparities and suggest opportunities for improving health outcomes among young pregnant women.

Keywords: Adolescents; Black; Discrimination; Latina; Pregnancy; Weight gain; Young women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Black or African American / psychology*
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Female
  • Health Status Disparities
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology*
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Overweight / ethnology*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Second
  • Pregnancy Trimester, Third
  • Prejudice / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Weight Gain / ethnology*
  • Young Adult