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Reproductive and socio‐economic correlates of maternal haemoglobin levels in a rural area of Papua New Guinea

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The effects of pregnancy, lactation, and socio‐economic status on maternal haemoglobin levels among the Au, a foraging and small‐scale horticultural population of Papua New Guinea, are examined. The sample consists of 259 parous women, 41 of whom reside in wage‐earning households and 218 of whom reside in households practicing traditional subsistence activities. The haemoglobin level among the total sample averages an extraordinarily low 8.6 g/dl and the prevalence of anaemia as defined using current WHO standards is just over 98%. Wage‐earning Au, however, have significantly higher haemoglobin levels and lower rates of anaemia than their traditional counterparts. Haemoglobin levels decline significantly during pregnancy by just over 1 g/dl among both socioeconomic groups, but soon return to pre‐gravid levels postpartum. No significant effects of lactation on haemoglobin levels are found, nor does the population show any long‐term, parity‐specific trends in haemoglobin levels.

Keywords: Papua New Guinea; haemoglobin; lactation; pregnancy

Document Type: Original Article


Affiliations: Department of Anthropology and Center for Studies in Demography and Ecology, University of Washington, USA

Publication date: 1997-06-01

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