Homelessness is something most of us don’t want to think about–and the thought of a pregnant woman being homeless is even more disturbing. The reality is that many women are pregnant without having a safe, consistent place to live. Domestic violence is a key factor that can result in homelessness.
A woman may find herself living in an unsafe situation with nowhere else to go. Many are without the financial resources needed to find alternative housing. Drug, alcohol use, and mental illness can also be contributors. Many drug treatment centers will not admit pregnant women—creating yet another obstacle to getting help.
So how can this impact pregnancy? Well, first it’s difficult to maintain your overall health when you’re homeless. If you have any kind of chronic illness like high blood pressure, diabetes or asthma, it’s likely to get worse if you are homeless, lack transportation, and have difficulty getting your routine medications.
Andrea Scott, Co-Founder of Up for Women and Children says, “Two other issues these women commonly face are inadequate nutrition and dehydration and a lack of good, quality sleep. Some women live in their car, while others are in shelter. But either way, they do not get good quality rest.”
She adds, “Even with the help of soup kitchens, women especially those with children do not always get enough to eat or enough of the right foods to eat. Women with children will be more likely to make sure their children are fed over themselves, even if they are pregnant.”
Homelessness also makes it difficult to see your doctor for regular prenatal care. Even if you can get to your prenatal appointments, it can be scary. If you’re homeless and your provider finds out, you may worry that someone will take your baby or other children away from you.
According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists , homeless women experience a higher number of poor birth outcomes compared to the general population. Homeless women are 2.9 times more likely to have a preterm delivery, and are more likely to have a baby with low birthweight.
These types of issues can feel so overwhelming they leave you wondering what you can do to help. However, there are a few things you can think about donating to organizations that support women who are homeless:
- Money for shelter programs
- Maternity clothes and bras
- Baby items such as diapers, clothing, blankets, and formula
- Strollers and diaper bags (the bigger the better since homeless moms usually walk everywhere)
Because of storage issues ask before donating these items:
- High chairs
- Car seats
Having a healthy pregnancy can be difficult under the best of circumstances. Women who are homeless need a tremendous amount of support to take care of their health and the health of their baby. As a community, we need to do everything we can to help and support those organizations who provide moms the much-needed services.