Effects Of Nutritional Deficiencies In Pregnancy

5 min read

Written by Pradeep


We all know the importance of the intake of sufficient nutrients during pregnancy, as the baby relies on his mother for nutrients. Most of us link nutrients to the birth weight of the baby. However, the nutrient intake of the mother also has a lot to do with the baby’s health conditions in the future. The demand of nutrients and energies increases during pregnancy. Insufficient nutrient intake can have long-term or short-term affect on both the mother and a developing child.
Pregnancy nutrition

  • What Is Nutritional Deficiency?
  • Malnutrition During Pregnancy
  • Significance Of Maintaining A Healthy Diet
  • Micro-nutrient Deficiency During Pregnancy?
  • How Does Micro-nutrient Deficiency During Pregnancy Affect The Child?
  • How Does Mother Get Affected When She Suffers From Nutritional Deficiencies In Pregnancy?

What Is Nutritional Deficiency?

Nutrition deficiency can be broadly divided into two sets:-

  • Malnutrition
  • Micro-nutrient deficiency

Malnutrition During Pregnancy

Malnutrition happens when the mother’s intake of food doesn’t meet the energy needs of both the mother and the baby. That is when the mother consumes food with less calories regularly, whereas the demand of energy expends of the body is high. Being underweight and not maintaining optimal prenatal health are the primary reasons of malnutrition in pregnant women.

  • One of the major reason for malnutrition during pregnancy is severe morning sickness. Nausea and vomiting which are common during the first trimester will usually disappear towards the last of the first trimester. When this state continues to the second and rarely towards the third trimester, then chances of malnutrition increase during pregnancy as the demand for calorie rich food also increases with the progressing pregnancy
  • Mothers suffering from malnutrition are prone to infections, anemia, lethargy, and fatigues
  • Intra Uterine Growth Retardation of the child (IUGC) and low birth weights are usually associated with the maternal malnutrition which can increase the chances of:
    • Disorderliness of circulatory, digestive, nervous, and respiratory systems of the fetus
    • Perinatal mortality or the death of an infant within seven days of birth happened when the birth weight is significantly low
    • Still birth
    • Underdevelopment of some organs
    • Brain damage
    • Premature birth

Does Malnutrition During Pregnancy Affect The Baby?

If you are wondering whether malnutrition during pregnancy has a long term affect in a child’s life, well, the answer is Yes. Maternal malnutrition has a far-fetched effect in a child’s life. However, the affect varies with the trimester during which malnutrition is experienced by the mother, such as:

  • Maternal malnutrition during the first trimester of pregnancy can cause obesity and coronary heart disease in the child in the future
  • If the mother experiences severe malnutrition during her second or third trimester the risks of the child to develop glucose intolerance, lung diseases, hyper tension, type two diabetes, osteoporosis and organ dysfunction increases

These children are found to be more prone to infection throughout their life. Thus, the reduced health during adulthood, especially for the females is often rooted in their maternal malnutrition when they are in the womb.

Significance Of Maintaining A Healthy Diet

So the significance of maintaining healthy diet habits from the moment you plan your pregnancy is important as the demands of extra energy and nutrition starts during the early weeks of the first trimester itself. The conditions you provide your baby when he is inside your womb, whether it be healthy or unhealthy, has an influence on his overall health condition in the future. So try to maintain a nutritious environment for the development of your baby.

Micro-nutrient Deficiency During Pregnancy?

Micro-nutrient deficiency arises when the mother consumes a sufficient quantity of food that provides enough calories to meet the energy needs of the body but the food that is consumed doesn’t contain specific micro-nutrients that are needed to maintain the mother’s health and the fetus development. Iron deficiency, calcium deficiency etc. are examples of micro-nutrient deficiency that arises during pregnancy. Deficiency of micro-nutrients during pregnancy definitely arise problems during pregnancy, like:

  • Vitamin K deficiency can lead to blood clotting disorder which may end in a substantial amount of blood loss during delivery
  • Iron deficiency can make the mother anemic
  • Magnesium deficiency can increase the chances of preterm delivery
  • Iodine deficiency is associated with miscarriage and still birth
  • Zinc deficiency can bring about preterm rupture of amniotic sac and premature delivery

How Does Micro-nutrient Deficiency During Pregnancy Affect The Child?

The deficiency of a particular micro-nutrient has an adverse effect on subsequent development of the fetus. Examples are:

  • Mother, if not provided with an adequate amount of iodine can affect the brain development of the child in the womb. The secretion of thyroid hormone of the mother is also getting affected causing neurological cretinism in the child
  • Maternal folate deficiency is the major cause of Neural tube defects seen in infants
  • When the mother is zinc deficient, the chances of the fetal growth retardation and birth defects will increase

How Does Mother Get Affected When She Suffers From Nutritional Deficiencies In Pregnancy?

We have already analyzed the importance of micro-nutrients during pregnancy above. Now let us see what happens if the mother fails to store the extra energy and nutrients that the pregnancy demands. If you are not getting the needed extra nutrients during your pregnancy, your baby will steal whatever he wants from your body itself. Even if your intake of the nutrients is somehow not requisite during pregnancy, you still have the stored nutrients in different glands, muscle and bones of yours way before you get pregnant. It is these nutrients that your baby will draw up for his needs. Let’s go through some examples, like:

  • If you are not getting enough calcium don’t worry that your baby is going to be born with brittle bones. More chances are that your bones are going to be weaker increasing the chances of developing osteoporosis in the future as your baby will take the calcium supply he needs from your bone
  • You might have started your pregnancy with a good level of iron stored in the blood. But, during the second and the third trimester, the demand of iron increases as the baby starts to make his own circulatory system. If you couldn’t meet the demand through your diet or supplement it, your baby will drain it out from your blood leaving you anemic

In short, if you are not getting sufficient nutrients from your diet, or are unable to store them for both you and your child’s need, you are making both yours’s and your baby’s future health at stake. So, focus on getting sufficient nutrients not only throughout your pregnancy but also during the lactating period to feel and stay healthy and have a healthy baby.


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