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The Ill Effects of Malnutrition on Mother and Baby

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What is Malnutrition?
Malnutrition is defined as ill health caused by deficiencies of calories, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Malnutrition along with infections and other poor health and social conditions, saps the strength and well-being of millions of women and adolescent girls around the world.

Implications of malnutrition-

  • Proper nutrition is necessary for any human being but more so for women as poor nutrition not only affects women's own health but also the health of their children. Children of malnourished mothers are more likely to suffer mental and physical disabilities, lower resistance to infections, and a higher risk of disease and death throughout their lives.
  • Malnourished women are more likely to have obstructed labor, suffer bleeding and die during and after childbirth, go through more infections and recover slowly from any illness. They are also unable to look after their family properly and pursue any income generating activity.
  • On the other hand a healthy and active woman will bear healthy children, be able to look after her family well and also be able to generate income. Well-nourished mothers are less likely to bear low birth-weight babies, who are more likely to die in infancy. Their babies are generally healthier and have greater resistance to childhood illnesses.
  • Women are more likely to suffer from nutritional deficiencies than men are, for reasons including women's biology, low social status, poverty, and lack of education.
  • Globally, 50 percent of all pregnant women are anemic, and at least 120 million women in less developed countries are underweight. Many women are also stunted, or below the average height for their age. Stunting is a known risk factor for obstetric complications such as obstructed labor with a high incidence of death during labor.
  • Adolescent girls are particularly vulnerable to malnutrition because they are growing faster than at any time. They need protein, iron, and other micro-nutrients to support the adolescent growth spurt and meet the body's increased demand for iron during menstruation. Adolescents who become pregnant and who are underweight or stunted are especially likely to experience obstructed labor and other obstetric complications.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency anaemia is the most common nutritional deficiency in the world. This occurs in women who do not eat iron rich foods such as meats. The prevalence of malaria, hookworm disease also add to the problem. Almost half the women of reproductive age in our country suffer from anaemia. Women are especially susceptible to iron deficiency and anaemia during pregnancy.

Iron deficiency and anemia cause fatigue, reduce work capacity, and make the women more susceptible to infection. Severe anemia places women at higher risk of death during and after childbirth.

Iodine Deficiency impairs mental functioning and can cause goitre (a swelling of the thyroid gland) and hypothyroidism, a condition marked by fatigue and weakness. In adolescent girls, iodine deficiency will impede physical development, and harm school performance.

Pregnant women who do not consume enough iodine are more likely to miscarry or have a stillborn child. The physical growth and mental development of their children is often severely impaired, and children may suffer irreversible mental retardation.

Vitamin A Deficiency can cause growth retardation and impaired vision. Vitamins A, is found in animal products and certain fruits, including mangos. Severe deficiency can even lead to blindness. Vit A deficiency weakens the the immune system, making women more susceptible to infection and putting them at increased risk of death. Pregnant women are especially vulnerable to this deficiency. When vitamin A supplements are given to pregnant women the babies show improved birth weight and neonatal growth.

Folate deficiency at the time of conception can cause neural tube defects in infants. Maternal zinc deficiency is associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight, and increased infant mortality. Other B vitamins, including B6 and B12, are important for ensuring children's healthy neurological development.

Nutrition is an essential part of everyone's daily existence that shouldn't be overlooked. The kind of implications it might have, is unimaginable. Know your body and take charge of your health. Eat healthy and stay healthy.
To know more about healthcare and to ask questions from an expert gynaecologist of your choice, while sitting at home, download LAIMA.


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