A University of Manitoba researcher has published an article that shows $3 a day makes a big difference for expecting moms who are also low-income.
Marni Brownell's findings come from a study looking at Manitoba's Healthy Baby Prenatal Benefit.
The program gives moms who make less than $10,000 per year an extra $81 per month.
“Which, you know, works out to about $3 a day and I think some people look and say, ‘Man, how can $3 a day make a difference?’" said Brownell.
"But many of these women have a family income of less than $10,000 a year. So then you can start to realize, 'Geez, $3 a day could be the difference between buying milk and some vegetables or not, or paying a bill over the course of the month.’ That's causing you great stress or not."
Brownell told CTV News from her home in Ontario, she's found a correlation between the extra money and decreases in the amount of low-weight births and premature births.
“I think it really highlights the fact that social factors, in this case income, are important in determining birth outcomes,” Brownell said.
“We often think prenatal care is important, and certainly it is important. But women in Canada all have access to free pre-natal care. Even with that, we know there are some huge discrepancies and outcomes between women living and poverty and women who don’t live in poverty.”
She also said moms who signed up for the program are having more success with breastfeeding.
The study used data from 14,000 women enrolled the Manitoba Healthy Baby program from 2003 to 2010.
Brownell said the study clearly showed the modest amount of money made a difference, but the question remains as to why.
“So, right now we are running a study where we are actually going out and interviewing women and say, 'How did you use the money?' To get a better grasp on what the mechanism is. Is it a reduction of stress? Is it an increase in nutrition? To find out really, why does it work?"
Many places in Canada and the U.S. issue support to pregnant women in the form of services or food stamps, or place conditions on how money can be spent, Brownell said.
“So, maybe this study will say we don't have to place conditions on these women and it could be just the trust that these women receiving the money, knowing that we trust them to make good decisions," she said.
The Women’s Health Clinic runs five Healthy Baby community groups in the city.
Staff there said the study is validation for the work they are doing to support, educate and set expecting moms up for success.
"This also shows what we've believed all along; that people are the experts in their own lives and given support and resources they will make good choices," said Erin Bockstael, a health educator at the Women's Health Clinic in Winnipeg.