Nutritional factors associated with maternal depression among pregnant women in Urban Low-Income Settlements in Nairobi, Kenya

Document Type



Brain and Mind Institute


Abstract: Background: Nutritional deficiencies are common during pregnancy and a year after childbirth. At the same time, maternal depression affects many women during pregnancy up to 1 year after childbirth. The objectives of this study were to determine the associations between nutrition status, dietary intake, and maternal depression among pregnant women.

Methods: This was a cross-sectional study that included 262 pregnant women aged 15 to 49 years attending the antenatal clinic in 2 public health facilities in urban low-income settlements in Nairobi, Kenya. Maternal depression was assessed using Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS). Mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) was used to determine nutritional status. Dietary intake was assessed using the 24-hour recall, and brain essential nutrients were assessed through a questionnaire. Odds ratio was used to test the associations. All maternal characteristics with P < .001 in the univariable analysis were considered in the multivariable logistic regression, variables with P < .05 were considered significant.

Results: Of the 262 pregnant women, 33.6% (95% CI: 27.9-40.7) had depressive illness as indicated by EPDS >13. About 9.9% of pregnant women had MUAC < 23 cm. The study established statistically significant association between poor nutrition by MUAC and maternal depression (P < .001). Maternal depression was statistically significantly associated with inadequate intake of brain food essential (P = .002). Maternal depression was statistically significantly associated with lower income (P < .001). In multivariable regression analysis, the main predictor of maternal depression was poor nutrition (P < .004).

Conclusion: These findings reveal an association between poor nutrition and maternal depression. These results suggest that nutritional deficiencies could be a contributing factor for maternal depression. Study recommends dietary interventions as cost-effective way to reduce deficiencies and improve mental health problems for pregnant women. Assessment of maternal depression and dietary intake be integrated as fundamental components of antenatal care.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.

Publication (Name of Journal)

Food and Nutrition Bulletin