BANGALORE: UNICEF’s latest report on maternal and child health, State of the World’s Children, 2012 stated that, in India, almost 22 per cent women give birth to a child before they turn 18. The country figures among the 50 worst performing nations where mortality rate is concerned. Almost one in three newborn has low birth weight and less than 50 per cent children are breastfed by their mothers. More shockingly, the report further stated that around 43 per cent of children under five years of age are underweight with 16 per cent being severely under-nourished. A child born in a slum in urban India is as likely to die before her or his first birthdays as a child in rural India.
The impact of inadequate nutrition during the first 1000 days that is from the time of conception till the baby is two years old is irreversible, affecting the cognitive development and academic achievement of the child.
“It is not the quantity but the quality of nutrients which matters during pregnancy. The right amount of essential fatty acids, adequate amount of vitamin D and other nutrients are of utmost important for the expecting mothers. Besides, before conception, smoking, alcohol consumption, drugs should be strictly avoided,” said Prof Hans Van Goudever, chairman of Department of Pediatrics, AMD and Vumc, Amsterdam. Prof Van was speaking at the ‘Scientific Symposium on Maternal and Child Nutrition: The first 1000 Days’ here recently.
Emphasising on the importance of breast milk for the new born babies, Prof Van further said that breast milk is the best way to meet the nutritional demands of the baby and each mother should breastfeed the baby for minimum six months. Employers, government bodies and hospitals should bring in a policy to provide opportunity for the mother to breastfeed their baby to meet the nutritional demand.
“Maternal nutrition during pregnancy has a pivotal role in the regulation of placental fetal development and thereby affects the lifelong health and productivity of the offspring. It is important to look in to the epigenetic factors before and during pregnancy,” said Dr Sophie van der Scohoor, fellow neonatology, VU Medical centre Amsterdam. Dr Anura V Kurpad, head of Division of Nutrition, St John Research Institute said that a pregnant women needs to live a stress-free life.