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Malnutrition During Pregnancy: Health Risks Expectant Mothers Should Be Aware of

Women are most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies during pregnancy. Malnutrition can poses significant dangers for both the baby and the mother.

Written by Editorial Team |Updated : September 8, 2022 5:01 PM IST

Women have specific dietary needs throughout their lives, but this is especially true before, during, and after childbirth when they are most vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies. The survival and well-being of mothers and their children depend on providing women with healthy food, enough resources, and care. Pregnancy malnutrition is characterised by a maternal nutritional status in which nutrient reserves and macronutrient/micronutrient consumption are below what is required to ensure the best results for the mother, the foetus, and the baby. Additionally, it raises the possibility of several negative outcomes.

Health risks for mother

Malnutrition poses significant dangers for would-be-moms such as:

  • Any condition impairment or disability that is directly related to pregnancy.
  • The risk of miscarriage as a result of malnutrition.
  • Dental problems such as swollen, painful and bleeding gums.
  • Use of certain medications that may interfere with nutrition absorption.
  • It may result inadequate weight gain during pregnancy.
  • Raises the risk of death.
  • Lowers immunity which leads to infection.
  • It causes anaemia and weakness along with lower productivity.

Women who are undernourished at the time of conception may also fail to meet the increased nutritional requirements during pregnancy. Also women who are undernourished at the time of pregnancy may also struggle to fulfil their higher nutrition needs.

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The deficiency of micronutrients during pregnancy could lead to major challenge. In the case of expecting moms, deficiency of zinc and magnesium causes preeclampsia. A lack of iron and vitamin B12 can cause anaemia. Inadequate intake of vitamin B12 can also lead to neurological disorders. Vitamin K deficiency can lead to excessive bleeding during childbirth and inadequate iodine intake during pregnancy can lead to miscarriage and stillbirth.

How malnutrition can be prevented?

A balanced diet that contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, water, dietary fibre, proteins, fats, and carbohydrates can help prevent malnutrition. Fatigue, anaemia, low pregnancy weight, lightheadedness, high blood pressure, hair loss, dry skin, dental issues, and a weakened immune system are all indications that a woman is undernourished during pregnancy.

Pregnant women should take prenatal vitamins, consume a balanced diet, and exercise frequently to avoid malnutrition. They should continue taking their pregnancy vitamins and eating a healthy diet throughout the pregnancy. This guarantees the well-being of the mother and the infant.


An important factor affecting foetal growth and delivery outcomes is maternal nutrition. It is a risk factor that needs to be assessed and worked upon as it is crucial to prevent unfavourable birth outcomes during the delivery and for the neonates. The importance of nutrition throughout pregnancy cannot be overstated. Numerous essential nutrients become more critical for the health of the pregnant women than they are prior to pregnancy. Giving the child everything he or she needs to develop will be easier if one makes good dietary choices every day. Additionally, it will ensure that both the mother and the child put on the appropriate amount of weight.

"The best way to keep your baby healthy is to keep yourself healthy"

The article is contributed by Dr. Garima Jain, MBBS, DNB, Obstetrics & Gynecology, Apollo Cradle & Children's Hospital, Bengaluru - Brookefield.

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