Nutrition and Maternal Survival in Developing Countries

Parul Christian

Summary Maternal mortality continues to be high and maternal nutrition poor in the developing world. However, the specific role of nutrition in affecting maternal health and survival remains unclear. Recent trials provide support for a specific and perhaps important place for nutrition in reducing the burden of maternal mortality in developing countries. Specific nutrition interventions have been shown to be efficacious against some causes of maternal mortality. Calcium supplementation during pregnancy in high-risk populations or populations with dietary deficiency can reduce the risk of eclampsia and severe morbidity and mortality related to hypertensive disorders of pregnancy. Magnesium sulfate is a low-technology and inexpensive means to reduce the risk of eclampsia. Maternal anemia is likely to increase the risk of maternal mortality. Antenatal iron supplementation when done adequately can bring about improvements in hemoglobin concentrations that are likely to reduce the risk of maternal mortality by about 25%. Maternal vitamin A deficiency may be associated with an increased risk of maternal deaths, but further evidence is needed. Antenatal nutritional interventions that are able to achieve high coverage may likely be an effective means for impacting maternal survival in undernourished populations of the world where the burden of maternal mortality is high.

Keywords: Maternal mortality, Causes, Pregnancy, Micronutrients, Anemia, Vitamins, Supplementation, Morbidity, Nutrition

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