Impact of poor nutrition in pregnancy upon health in later life

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Pregnancy is a beautiful time. It allows women to experience the wonders of bringing forth a
new life and positively contributing to the society. During this crucial period, a mother is advised
to consume a balanced diet to ensure that she obtains sufficient nutritional components required
for proper development of the fetus and the mother. Physicians recommend that such foods
should have an assortment of iron, calcium, folia, and vitamin D. Lack of proper nutritional
requirements not only affects the mother negatively after giving birth, but also the child during
their adult life.
Impact of Poor Nutrition in Pregnancy upon Health in Later Life
Pregnancy is a critical time for the woman and the developing fetus. During this period,
the mother gets to experience the development of her child in her womb and the privilege of
bringing forth a new life. While for some it is a beautiful time, for others it can be quite a
nightmare. The woman experiences biological and hormonal challenges that require proper
nutrition to mitigate. A balanced diet is recommended to ensure proper fetal development as the
baby derives most of its nourishment from the food the mother consumes. According to the
World Health Organization (WHO), a healthy diet during this phase contains adequate energy,
protein, vitamins, and minerals. These constituents can be obtained from green and orange
vegetables, meat, fish, beans, nuts, pasteurized dairy produce, and fruits (Whoint, 2018). The
paper underscores the impact on the future health of an individual because of inadequate
nutrition intake during pregnancy.
Lack of proper nutrition during pregnancy not only has a negative impact during the nine
months, but also affects the health of both the mother and the child post-partum. Women who
observe inadequately balanced diets increase the risks of maternal death or may suffer from
postpartum osteoporosis. Infants born from under-nourished mothers are at risk of poor cognitive
growth, development of chronic diseases, stunted growth, and infant mortality.
During gestation, a woman requires different nutritional components to ensure that she
can support her life and the one developing inside her. Poor nutrition during this crucial period
could lead to an increased chance of maternal deaths either during birthing or after birthing due
to excessive bleeding. Moreover, it also raises the possibility of the mother developing infections
during birthing due to a weak immune system (Geissler & Powers, 2017). The reason is that the
body undergoes many changes during this phase and, therefore, requires a balanced diet to fortify
its immunity. Regular consumption of foods rich in iron, fruits, and vegetables helps in boosting
this immunity, which consequently, aids in maintaining the mother’s health postpartum.
Postpartum osteoporosis commonly diagnosed during the first three months after birth is
suspected to be caused by poor nutrition, especially consuming diets lacking vitamin D and
calcium. The condition involves the erosion of the bone density of the spine and the hip resulting
in minor fractures (Osteoporosisorgau, 2018). Although rare due to the increase in the number of
women attending prenatal care and the availability of supplements, it can lead to pathological
vertebral compression fracture and subsequent deformity if left untreated.
Cognitive development among infants born in countries with better nutritional guidelines
during pregnancy is higher compared to regions where famine is a calamity, or poor nutrition is
practiced. The reason is that sufficient nutrients are required for a fetus’ brain development
during its first days in the womb. Inadequacy during different stages of gestation may lead to
underdevelopment of different parts of the brain according to Jukes, Drake, & Bundy (2007).
They further emphasize that such growth leads to low IQ’s that lead to learning disabilities and a
myriad of other unfavorable demeanors such as decreased self esteem and poor social cues.
Development of chronic illnesses has been on the rise over the years. Cardiovascular and
respiratory diseases have become common in children and adults. A study conducted after the
Dutch famine showed that children born by mothers who consumed 400 to 800 calories
compared to those who took the recommended 2,200 calories daily, developed heart and
hypertension complications later in life (Roseboom et al., 2001). In theory, researchers deduced
that a child born from a malnourished mother usually is underweight. As their body attempts to
compensate, they tend to over-consume after birth, which leads to the development of
cardiovascular diseases, hypertension, and diabetes in adult life. According to the study, children
born from malnourished mothers during the famine risked suffering from impaired glucose
tolerance, hypercholesterolemia, raised blood pressure, and obesity.
Stunted growth is primarily manifested through malnutrition from the first 1000 days of
the child. According to the WHO, it is a process of failure to reach linear growth potential
because of suboptimal health and/or nutritional conditions (Whoint, 2018). The first 1000 days
are the most critical period in a child’s development. Proper nutrition from conception ensures
that the child is born healthy and can grow up to the required height and weight (Branca &
Ferrari, 2002). Any damage that occurs during this timeframe is irreversible. Stunting is
attributed to persistent poorer learning and educational achievement later in life.
Proper nutrition is required during pregnancy to ensure that both the mother and child can
lead a healthy life. By observing this, maternal and infant mortality rates can be reduced. The
elimination of postpartum osteoporosis is possible among women with high intake of calcium
and Vitamin D. Moreover, chronic diseases such as congenital heart defects among children,
stunted growth, and reduced cognitive development among children can be avoided through
merely practicing good eating habits.
Black, R.E., Allen, L.H., Bhutta, Z.A., Caulfield, L.E., De Onis, M., Ezzati, M., Mathers, C.,
Rivera, J. and Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group, 2008. Maternal and child
undernutrition: global and regional exposures and health consequences. The
lancet, 371(9608), pp.243-260.
Branca, F. and Ferrari, M., 2002. Impact of micronutrient deficiencies on growth: the stunting
syndrome. Annals of nutrition and metabolism, 46(Suppl. 1), pp.8-17.
Geissler, C. and Powers, H. eds., 2017. Human nutrition. Oxford University Press.
Jukes, M.C., Drake, L.J. and Bundy, D.A., 2007. School health, nutrition and education for all:
levelling the playing field. CABI.
Osteoporosisorgau. 2018. Osteoporosisorgau. [Online]. [2 March 2018]. Available from:
Roseboom, T.J., Van Der Meulen, J.H., Ravelli, A.C., Osmond, C., Barker, D.J. and Bleker,
O.P., 2001. Effects of prenatal exposure to the Dutch famine on adult disease in later life:
an overview. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 185(1-2), pp.93-98.
Whoint. 2018. Whoint. [Online]. [2 March 2018]. Available from:
Whoint. 2018. Whoint. [Online]. [2 March 2018]. Available from:

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