Proper nutrition during pregnancy and while breastfeeding is important for mothers as well as crucial to their infants’ health. Women with poor nutrition together with their growing fetuses are at a greater risk of morbidity and death, from malnutrition. Malnutrition is a major concern for pregnant women or those who may become pregnant in developing countries of Africa. To meet their energy requirements and support the healthy growth of their unborn babies, healthy pregnant or breastfeeding women require between 300-500 extra calories per day.
Lack of adequate energy intake during pregnancy causes low infant birth weight which affects 20 million children living in underdeveloped countries, killing most of them in the first week of life. Those who survive beyond the first week can live with cognitive impairments, higher disease risk, and short stature, all of which are irreversible. Malnutrition also causes other fetal or infant health consequences such as brain damage and birth defects. Maternal malnutrition causes an increased risk of infection, weakness, and anemia in pregnant women. Monthly weight monitoring and simple health education for pregnancy are very effective for producing positive maternal and infant outcomes.