Maternal and Child Health Journal

, Volume 16, Issue 1, pp 109-118

First online:

Childbearing, Stress and Obesity Disparities in Women: A Public Health Perspective

  • Esa M. DavisAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, University of PittsburghDepartment of Family Medicine, Case Western Reserve University Email author 
  • , Kurt C. StangeAffiliated withDepartment of Family Medicine, Case Western Reserve UniversityDepartment of Epidemiology & Biostatistics, Case Western Reserve UniversityDepartment of Sociology, Case Western Reserve UniversityCase Comprehensive Cancer Center, Case Western Reserve University
  • , Ralph I. HorwitzAffiliated withDepartment of Medicine, Stanford University

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The perinatal period, from early in the first trimester to 1 year postpartum, provides opportunities for novel public health interventions to reduce obesity disparities. We present a unifying socio-biological framework to suggest opportunities for multidisciplinary research and public health approaches to elucidate and target the mechanisms for the development of maternal obesity and related disparities. The framework illustrates the interplay of the social, cultural and physical environment; stress appraisal and response; and coping behaviors on short-term outcomes (e.g. allostatic load and gestational weight gain), the intermediate outcomes of persistent insulin resistance and post-partum weight retention, and longer term outcomes of obesity and its disease consequences. Testing the proposed relationships may provide insights into how childbearing risk factors such as gestational weight gain, postpartum weight retention and parity contribute to obesity, which are needed to inform public health policies and clinical care guidelines aimed at reducing obesity and improving the health of women.


Obesity Racial disparity Pregnancy weight gain Postpartum weight retention Maternal stress