Postpartum Maternal Health at a Time of Rapid Societal Change in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Background. Abu Dhabi has undergone a rapid transition from a subsistence economy to a wealthy modern state over the last 50 years. This paper presents an insight into the health status of Emirati mothers during this transition through a prospective longitudinal study of mothers who gave birth in a government maternity hospital in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi.
Methods. 125 women were interviewed within the first week after birth, as part of a larger study encompassing a wide range of cultural, social, and behavioural aspects of health. They were then re-interviewed at three, six and 15 months postpartum. A food frequency questionnaire was also administered to the mothers at birth. Data were analysed using univariate statistics.
Results. Over 70% of the mothers had BMI in the overweight and obese categories, and approximately half of the women were dissatisfied with their weight. Contributing factors were likely to be diets high in fats and sugar, low levels of exercise and women’s limited involvement in household food purchasing and preparation. Iron deficiency anaemia, diabetes, asthma and fertility problems were found to be the most common concerns amongst the participants prior to conception. Anaemia rates were high during pregnancy, with 35% having haemoglobin < 11 g/dL, and were positively associated with parity. Belief in traditional and herbal medicines was strong, with 43% of women using a variety of remedies during pregnancy.
Conclusions. Policies and support mechanisms to encourage women to make better dietary choices and to provide more opportunities for exercising are required to improve the health of mothers in the UAE. The development of good quality health care has resulted in the better maternal health outcomes, although traditional practices in relation to herbal medicines are still common.
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