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According to UNICEF, one third of all women of reproductive age in India are undernourished, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m2. An undernourished mother will give birth to an undernourished baby, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of undernutrition.The state of pregnancy and lactation causes considerable stress in women and increases the demand of better diet and nutrition. Lack of adequate nutrition affects the course of pregnancy and lactation.

It is understood that undernourished girls are more likely of becoming undernourished mothers who will give birth to low birth weight babies.

The Indian Council of Medical Research (1990) recommends an increase of 300 Kcals. per day during the second and third trimester of pregnancy. This takes into consideration additional energy needed to support the growth of the foetus, placenta and maternal tissues, as well as to meet the increased metabolic rate.

Studies carried out among lactating women revealed that when they were given extra amounts of body building foods, they produced a large amount of breast milk for their infants.

Action on Nutritional deficiency among lactating mothers and pregnant women in India

It has been globally accepted that focusing on the first 1000 days of a child’s life, from conception to two years of age, is a critical window of opportunity to avoid child stunting.

1. There has to be a focus on women’s’ nutrition in India, right from the time when she was a girl, the quality and nutrient level of food consumed in Indian households have to be improved. Through the PDS or public distribution system, food rations should be supplied to every household in India and also food supplements should be supplied.

  1. Access to essential vitamins and minerals like Folic Acid, iodized salt, calcium supplements, vitamin A right from a young age in women is essential for a safe pregnancy and lactation.
  2. pregnant women in India often lack access to proper and regular antental natal check up, there should be an emphasis on pregnancy weight gain monitoring, proper screening and special care of at-risk mothers
  3. The government must ensure proper sanitation and hygiene education, including menstrual hygiene especially among the rural masses and the poor urban masses.

In Andhra Pradesh and Telangana in India, 5100 women federations, supported by Aajeevika and UNICEF, partner with State Governments to provide 895,000 pregnant and lactating mothers nutritious meals daily through ‘ONE FULL MEAL’ scheme, located in villages where undernutrition rates are high.

This ‘One Full Meal’ entitles the pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers to receive a free nutritious meal every day between 11am and 2pm at the village Anganwadi centre, 25 days a month.


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