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Trans R Soc Trop Med Hyg. 1982;76(5):668-78.

Seasonal changes in activity, birth weight and lactational performance in rural Gambian women.


The activity of 81 pregnant, lactating and non-pregnant, non-lactating women in the rural subsistence farming village of Keneba, The Gambia, was measured for 12 months using a combination of 24-hour activity recall and activity diaries. During the course of pregnancy women became gradually less active and in the month before giving birth were 25% less active than non-pregnant, non-lactating women and lactating women when women in the month after birth were excluded. There were striking seasonal changes in activity. During the dry season, from January to April, lactating women were active 55% of the 15-hour working day. At the start of the farming season in June and July this figure increased to 92%. Similar changes were observed in the pregnant women whose activity increased from a mean 50% in April to 83% in June. The period of intense activity coincided with a general shortage of food and increased incidence of disease. The intense activity of pregnant women in the farming season coupled with the low food intakes are most probably the main factors responsible for the striking fall in birth weights observed at this time of the year. Reduced lactational performance was apparent in relation to high activity when it necessitated the mother regularly spending much of the day away from her child. FAO/WHO-recommended energy intakes during pregnancy and lactation are inappropriate for this community.

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