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Practices and Perceptions of Animal Contact and Associated Health Outcomes in Pregnant Women and New Mothers

By Hsin-Yi Weng, Kimberly Ankrom

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Category Journal Articles

Companion animals play an important role in our society. However, pregnant women and new mothers might have specific concerns about animal-associated health outcomes because of their altered immune function and posture as well as their newborn babies. The study was conducted to collect baseline data for developing an evidence-based intervention for pregnant women and new mothers to help them adopt certain behaviors to prevent adverse animal-associated health outcomes. A survey, using the Health Belief Model as the theoretical framework, was developed and administered to 326 women attending the Women, Infants, and Children programs in Illinois and Indiana in 2015. Prevalence of dog and cat ownership was estimated to be 39% (95% CI: 33–45%) and 26% (95% CI: 21–31%), respectively. Regardless of pet ownership, 74% of the respondents reported having some type of animal contact in the past month. Pregnancy or the birth of a child altered some animal contact practices among the study participants; particularly a discontinuation or decrease in cleaning cat litter boxes. Reports of diseases contracted from animals were low (4%) in this study. By contrast, animal-associated injuries were prevalent (42%), and the majority were caused by animals the respondents owned (56%). Overall, respondents indicated that they appreciated the benefits of a program addressing animal-associated health outcomes and did not indicate strong resistance to adopt certain behaviors. The majority recognized human health-care providers as a source of information about animal contact and associated health outcomes but less frequently identified veterinarians as a source for such information. In addition, although most of the respondents felt that health-care providers and veterinarians should initiate discussions about preventing animal-associated illness and injuries, only 41% among those who had visited doctors or prenatal care services reported that their health-care providers discussed these issues with them. The results indicate the importance of an intervention concerning animal contact and associated health outcomes for the target population and provide insights to the potential implications of program implementation.


Mason N McLary

HABRI Central

Date 2016
Publication Title Frontiers in Veterinary Science
Volume 3
Issue 5
Publisher Frontiers
DOI 10.3389/fvets.2016.00005
Language English
Additional Language English
  1. Animal-assisted activities
  2. Animal-assisted therapies
  3. Animal roles
  4. Animals in culture
  5. Health
  6. Human-animal interactions
  7. Infants
  8. Injuries
  9. Pet ownership
  10. Pets and companion animals
  11. Physical environment
  12. pregnancy
  13. Zoonoses