Tuesday, 7 December, 2021

Sheer Urgency of Nutrition during Pregnancy

Rifat Zafreen

Sheer Urgency of Nutrition during Pregnancy

‘No... no, do not eat much – the baby in the womb will be big and that will be a problem during delivery’, shouts out the mother-in-law of Rupali. This is not the story of Rupali only, rather the common scenario of the rural women countrywide where sometimes even the expectant mother and in laws think in the same light. Most of the rural people, especially women think pregnancy is only a physiological process, and they hardly know about the needs for some additional nutrients.

During pregnancy, it is super urgent to take additional nutrients like vitamins and micronutrients that need to be added in the daily diet of the expectant mother. The mother must take these for the well-being of herself and the baby in her womb.

To have the additional food is not at all much costly. Local, less costly and easily available food is enough to accommodate the extra needs during pregnancy. Simply two extra tablespoonful of rice, one tablespoon of lentils, a bit extra fat, some fresh vegetables, a few fruits like banana, guava, grapes, occasionally a healthy measure of protein and, if possible, a cup of milk is sufficient to provide nutrition to the mother and the baby in her womb. This nutritional advice is generally given while the mother comes for her antenatal checkup.

Pregnancy is associated with physiological changes that results in increased plasma volume, red blood cells and decreased concentrations of circulating nutrients--binding proteins and micronutrients. These physiological changes can be aggravated by under nutrition, leading to micronutrient deficiency state like anaemia which can have even disastrous consequences for both the mother and child. Other than vitamin A, most of the vitamins and minerals are safe in pregnancy. But excess vitamin A can cause some harm to the baby. So, if the mother is quite healthy and no deficiency of nutrients is there, other than folic acid, nothing else is required. Folic acid is to be started one month prior to pregnancy and has to be continued at least for the first three months of pregnancy to avoid neural tube defect which is birth defect of the brain, spine or spinal cord.

 Vitamin D and calcium are important which is better to take in the first trimester. Supplementation of zinc, magnesium and iodine is usually not needed. Simple regular healthy family diet contains these micronutrients. Having these additional food and micronutrients are a sheer urgency during pregnancy because only a healthy mother can give birth to a healthy baby. So, it is a must to take care of the pregnant women for the betterment of our future generation. Husband, in-laws and the other family members should come forward to help the expectant mother not only in the nutritional aspect, but also in all other aspects. A united comprehensive approach is necessary in every pregnancy.

 Creating awareness is the best way to avert any societal impediments. Suffering of both mother and baby due to malnutrition and ignorance could be lessened by arranging family consultation among expectant mother, guardian, family head, elderly lady, health worker and social leader. Exchange of information during consultation would help expectant mothers like Rupali, who would feel free to ask for nutrient rich local foods to their guardians and family members. Government has been providing assistance to all, especially the pregnant mothers, through its Union level Health Centers and community clinics across the country. Concerted efforts ultimately would help to get a better posterity from expectant mothers. We must not forget the sheer urgency of nutrition required for a pregnant mother. Government has also been providing an allowance to pregnant mothers all over the country.

Malnutrition is a chronic cycle which is carried from malnourished mother to the child and again from that malnourished girl child to its child through a never ending vicious cycle. Media can play a vital role in this case. Media can help circulate the message regarding the importance of nutrition for the people, especially for the women and pregnant mothers. Thus, our print and electronic media can be more vibrant and sincere in educating and making people aware of the urgent necessity of having proper nutrition during pregnancy. We must not avoid the responsibility of giving special nutrition to expectant mothers during this special phase of the life of a woman. This is a must to have a healthy, bright and talented generation and also to have a successful and developed country. Ensuring nutrition at micro level can lead to tremendous success at macro level. We cannot thus overlook the importance of ensuring nutrition during pregnancy the least bit.


The writer is a Deputy Principal Information Officer, PID