Essentials of Normal Pregnancy

Essentials of Normal Pregnancy

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-4357-3.ch003
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Pregnancy is physiologically and nutritionally a highly demanding period. A pregnant woman prepares herself to meet the nutritional demands by increasing her own body fat deposits during pregnancy. The fetus inside the uterus of mother is like a parasite (i.e., it takes several nutrients that it requires from the mother, regardless of whether she has enough of them or not). However, it has been observed that women's diets among poor socio-economic groups during pre-pregnant, pregnant, and lactating periods are essentially similar. Consequently, widespread maternal malnutrition results in a high prevalence of infants with low birth weight and a very high maternal mortality rate. Extra diet is needed to improve the birth weight and increase deposits of fat in the maternal body. Adequate intake of nutritious diet is reflected in optimal weight gain of 10 to 12 kg during pregnancy. Some micronutrients are especially required in extra amounts to meet the physiological needs of this period. Hence, good nutrition must be ensured for optimum growth and development of children, adolescents, and women.
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Key Facts

  • One third of women of reproductive age in India are undernourished, with a Body Mass Index (BMI) of less than 18.5 Kg/m2 (UNICEF, N.A.).

  • There are various hormonal changes associated with menstruation, childbearing and menopause indicate that women are at an increased risk of anaemia and osteoporosis, thus requiring an increased intake of nutrients such as iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin D, folate and other vitamins.

  • The first 1000 days of a child’s life, from conception to two years of age, is a critical window period of opportunities to address child stunting.

  • It is essential that adequate nutrition reach women, regardless of whether they are pregnant or not, especially when the world strives towards reaching global targets of Sustainable Development Goals (SDG’s) (United Nations, 2015).



Pregnancy is, thus, a nutritionally demanding physiological state. Great importance lies in healthy nutrition during pregnancy and the following course of initial 1,000 days in light of the impact it has on the growth and the development of the baby, on the adequate development of the baby's brain, the immune system and the functional skills in its body. Healthy nutrition is the base for a healthy and balanced life, preventing ailments and promoting quality of life during the course of life. Recent research proves that the woman's' nutritional condition during pregnancy, the rate of her gaining weight and her nutritional habits can have an impact on the new-born’s cognitive development, its tendency in becoming fatter during later life, heart and vascular diseases (Ministry of Health Israel, 2020).

Good nutrition, with a balance of macronutrients and micronutrients, at every stage of life is the key to human development. Good nutrition is vital to good health, disease prevention and essential for the optimum growth and development of children, adolescents and adults.

It is a common observation that women's diets from the poorer groups during pre-pregnant, pregnant and lactating periods are essentially similar. Consequently, there is widespread maternal malnutrition, results in a high prevalence of infants with low birth weight and a very high rate of maternal mortality. Thus, additional foods are needed to improve the birth weights and increase the body deposits of the mothers.

Article 47 of the Constitution of India is one of the directive principles which directs the state to raise the level of nutrition of the population. It also directs, as among its primary duties, to raise their standard of living and to improve the public health. In particular, the state shall endeavor to prohibit the use of intoxicating drinks and drugs that are injurious to health (Central Health Education Bureau, 2019).

The problem of under-nutrition runs in generations and is dependent on multifarious factors which include proper infant and young child feeding practices, completion of immunization schedule, institutional delivery as far as possible, regular check-ups for early detection of childhood development delays and subsequent follow up, consumption pattern in families affecting the life of adults and elderly. Food fortification (salt iodization, enrichment of flours etc.), regular administration of deworming drugs, iron supplement must be given to target the problem of anaemia. An access to safe drinking water and proper sanitation has an overriding effect on the overall status on the nutritional attainment in commensurate with the age and the physiological states such as pregnancy and lactation (Central Health Education Bureau, 2019).

Eating a well-balanced diet is important to stay healthy, maintain weight and remain energized but becomes more important in women because of hormonal changes associated with menstruation, child bearing and menopause which requires a higher intake of nutrients. Further, gender inequality, socio-cultural practices, lack of education, economic dependence and poor access to amenities make the situation even worse.

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