Resource Round-Up: Nutrition and Maternal Health

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By: Kayla McGowan, Project Coordinator, Women and Health Initiative, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health; Sarah Hodin, MPH, CD(DONA), LCCE, National Senior Manager of Maternal Newborn Health Programs, Steward Health Care

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.

Featured resources

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

Key papers

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

Adolescent pregnancy, nutrition, and health outcomes in low- and middle-income countries: What we know and what we don’t know
BJOG | December 2015

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

Role of nutrition in preventing child and maternal deaths
USAID | 2014

Tracking progress on child and maternal nutrition
UNICEF | November 2009

Are you a researcher, program implementer or policymaker working on a project related to nutrition and maternal health? We want to hear from you!

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