Ensuring proper nutrition is key to optimizing the health of pregnant women, mothers and newborns. Both undernutrition and overnutrition are major drivers of poor maternal health outcomes in low-, middle- and high-income countries. Undernutrition in pregnancy can lead to micronutrient deficiencies that compromise maternal health. Iron deficiency anemia, for example, affects one out of every two pregnant women in developing countries and contributes to 20% of global maternal deaths. Overnutrition can also cause a cascade of poor maternal and newborn health outcomes.
As the world undergoes a “nutrition transition”—in which urbanization and rising income contribute to increased high-calorie food consumption and less-active lifestyles—more women are developing noncommunicable diseases such as obesity. Pregnant women who are overweight or obese may face increased risks of numerous complications, including gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, cesarean sections, stillbirths, preterm births and others.
Depending on the context, interventions to improve maternal nutrition should aim to provide adequate dietary intake and supplementation in pregnancy and take into account the many contributing lifestyle factors for women at risk of overweight and obesity.
In recognition of World Food Day, the Maternal Health Task Force (MHTF) has rounded-up resources related to nutrition and maternal health.
Maternal and child nutrition series
The Lancet | June 2013
Maternal obesity series
The Lancet | October 2016
Nutrition and the continuum of care: Pre-conception to the post-natal period
Advancing Dialogue on Maternal Health Series | July 2014
Maternal undernutrition: Evidence, links and solutions
Advancing Dialogue on Maternal Health Series | December 2010
Priority interventions to improve maternal and child diets in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
Maternal and Child Nutrition | October 2017
Impact of maternal under nutrition on obstetric outcomes
Journal of Endocrinological Investigation | January 2015
Maternal and child undernutrition: Global and regional exposures and health consequences
The Lancet | January 2008
Maternal nutrition: Opportunities in the prevention of gestational diabetes
Nutrition Reviews | January 2017
Magnitude and determinants of malnutrition among pregnant women in eastern Ethiopia: Evidence from rural, community-based setting
Maternal & Child Nutrition | July 2014
Maternal and child nutrition: Building momentum for impact
The Lancet | June 2013
Socio-economic and demographic factors influencing nutritional status among early childbearing young mothers in Bangladesh
BMC Women’s Health | August 2016
Reports and guidelines
Essential nutrition actions: Improving maternal, newborn, infant and young child health and nutrition
World Health Organization | 2013
PMNCH knowledge summary #18: Nutrition
Partnership for Maternal, Newborn & Child Health | 2012
Tracking progress on child and maternal nutrition
UNICEF | November 2009
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