Saturday 6 November 2021



Pregnancy is one of the most critical periods in women’s life as they are particularly vulnerable to nutritional deficiencies because of the increased metabolic demands imposed by pregnancy, involving a growing placenta, fetus, and maternal tissues, coupled with associated dietary risks. Adequate nutrition is exceptionally important during this period to meet up with the diverse nutritional needs imposed by the physiological condition. The optimal development of the infant depends on the mother’s diet as any deficiency during this period cannot be averted.

Deficiencies do not occur overnight, but if the body is repeatedly deprived of a specific nutrient, or combination of nutrients, it soon becomes prone to illness and decreased physical and cognitive performance. During pregnancy, the elevated demand for micronutrients put pregnant women at even higher risk of micronutrients deficiency. For instance, the requirement for some  micronutrients  such  as  calcium, copper,  iron  and  zinc  are  known  to increase  during  pregnancy  due  to  greater needs  of  the  mother  to  increase  her  body tissue  reserves,  and  to  meet  the  high metabolic  demands  and  development  of the  placenta and  fetus.  Micronutrients  play  an  important role  during  pregnancy  and  reduction  may cause  physical  abnormalities  and  diseases which  increase  the  risk  of  adverse pregnancy  outcomes.

Causes of micronutrients deficiency

Deficiencies in maternal micro nutrient status may  be  a  product  of  poor quality  diets,  high  fertility  rates,  repeated pregnancies, short intervals inter pregnancy and  increased  physiological needs.  All of these factors may  be aggravated  by  inadequate  healthcare systems  with  poor  capacity,  poverty  and inequities,  and  socio-cultural  factors  such as  early  marriage,  adolescent  pregnancies and  traditional  dietary  practices.

Some micronutrient and their importance

Vitamin A is important for lung development and maturation in the foetus and newborn. Pregnant women are generally advised to avoid liver and liver products. Therefore, beta-carotene remains an essential source of vitamin A in this condition.

Vitamin B9 (folate) requirements increase to maintain blood plasma and red cell folate levels. Women are recommended to start folic acid supplementation during periconceptional period to reduce the risk of congenital abnormalities such as neural tube defect (NTD) and congenital heart defects (CHD). Folate deficiency also link to preeclampsia, gestational diabetes, fetal growth retardation, and miscarriage, via accumulation of homocysteine.

Vitamin C is needed in extra during pregnancy (as the foetus concentrates the nutrient at the expense of the mother’s stores and circulating vitamin levels) and breast-feeding.

Vitamin D- is a fat-soluble vitamin whose source is either dietary intake or manufacture in the skin with the aid of ultraviolet (UV). during pregnancy, vitamin D deficiency could induce preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm birth. Intake is needed to reduce the risk of low calcium levels and bone diseases in the mother, and to improve the vitamin D status of the fetus throughout the developmental period.

Iron and iodine: Iron is needed for the formation of red blood cells and to reduce the risk of low birth weight while iodine is required for the production of thyroid hormone affecting growth and development and prevention of cretinism. To compensate the increased requirement adequate food intake or supplementation during pregnancy is recommended.

zinc is needed for cell growth and for the production and functioning of DNA – the body's genetic blueprint. Deficiency increases foetal death due to spontaneous abortions or multiple congenital anomalies, intrauterine growth retardation, reduced birth weight, prolonged labour and preterm or post-term deliveries.


Low Calcium intake could cause rapid increase in bone resorption in the maternal body resulting in the increase of future fracture and osteoporosis risks. Low intake also increases the risk of preeclampsia, gestational diabetes and preterm birth and may induce impaired fetal bone development.


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