Lactating mothers are at increased risk of underweight due to physiological changes that lead to disproportionately higher energy and nutrient requirements than non-pregnant and non-lactating women. Maternal underweight has been shown to negatively affect the secretion of nutrients in breast milk leading to increased risk of child morbidity and mortality. We aimed to determine the prevalence and factors associated with underweight among lactating women in Uganda.
We used the Uganda Demographic and Health Survey (UDHS) 2016 data of 1,356 women aged 20 to 49 years. Multistage stratified sampling was used to select study participants and data were collected using validated questionnaires. We used multivariable logistic regression to determine factors associated with underweight among 20 to 49-year-old lactating women in Uganda.
The prevalence of underweight was 8.2% (111/1356) (95% CI: 7.0–10.0). Women who were working were more likely to be underweight compared to those who were not working (AOR = 0.51; 95% CI: 0.28–0.96). Women in the Northern region were more likely to be underweight compared to women in the Western (AOR = 0.14; 95% CI: 0.06–0.29), Eastern (AOR = 0.34; 95% CI: 0.18–0.64) and Central (AOR = 0.24; 95% CI: 0.10–0.57) regions. Women who had no education (AOR = 9.27; 95% CI: 1.61–53.52) or, primary education (AOR = 6.00; 95% CI: 1.13–31.98) were more likely to be underweight compared to those who had higher (post-secondary) education level.
Our study established that the factors associated with underweight among Ugandan lactating women were level of education, working status and region. Based on the findings of this and other studies, it is important for the government to design targeted underweight reduction programs with special emphasis on working, women from the Northern region and those whose highest level of education is primary.