Malnutrition is a significant problem in developing countries. Without substantial resources, many men, women and children go to bed hungry. Tackling malnutrition should be a priority for everyone, especially pregnant women.
A woman’s nutritional intake impacts both her health during pregnancy and the health of her baby. Without proper care, she is susceptible to illnesses and her baby’s health is at risk. Malnutrition during pregnancy can cause devastating results.
In many countries, tradition forces women to be the last to eat at meals, which may result in them receiving smaller portions. This notion severely impacts pregnant women.
A woman that is undernourished at the time of conception is at risk of serious health issues for both herself and her baby. Not only is it unlikely that her nutritional status will improve throughout the pregnancy, but her body also experiences additional demands due to the growing baby. Without enough food, she will most likely lose weight, which increases the risk of maternal mortality.
When her body is unable to obtain or store enough nutrients required to support embryo growth, the cells may not divide properly, resulting in a chance that the fetus’ development will be impaired. The placental cells, which support the fetus’ growth during pregnancy, are more likely to surround the fetus in large numbers, forcing the fetus to become smaller than it should be. This leads to the baby being born at a low birth weight, which in turn often leads to severe cognitive and developmental deficits.
A baby’s organs develop during the first five weeks of pregnancy. In order for the organs to grow properly, it is imperative for women to be healthy and have food supplies readily available.
A woman’s caloric needs increase with pregnancy. An additional 150 calories per day is needed to support the baby in the first three months of the pregnancy. In month four, the additional calories needed increase to 300 per day.
In addition, women must have the proper nutrients in their diet, such as foods with folic acid, iron calcium, protein, vitamin B12, vitamin D and vitamin A. According to the World Food Programme, half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anaemic (having an iron deficiency), which causes around 110,000 deaths during childbirth per year.
Without enough nutrients, a baby is at higher risk of neural tube defects, brain damage, premature birth, underdevelopment of organs, death and more. If a child becomes malnourished in the womb, the damage can be permanent.
Improving nutrition is an investment that could save the lives of women around the world; it will also decrease the number of birth defects and disabilities seen in newborns and young children. In many developing countries, nutrition is essential to promoting a happy and healthy lifestyle where no person goes to bed hungry.
– Kelsey Parrotte