11 July is observed as the World Population Day, providing an opportunity for everyone to raise issues plaguing overpopulation and its implications.
Good nutrition has always played an important role in improving the overall health of the population, and Covid has put the spotlight back on this.
It is especially vital for pregnant women. At no other time in life is nutrition as important as before, during, and following pregnancy.
So, how important is nutrition for pregnant women and for the well-being of the baby?
Factors That Determine Malnutrition
"50 percent of all the women in India are anemic. With pregnancy, the anemia level increases, because that is a physiological reason," Mini Varghese, Country Director at Nutrition International, said.
So, when they are already anemic, the pregnancy is an added pressure.
The second point is the age at which women get married that also plays at important role in determining the nutritional status.
"We have about 20 percent of women who get married even before they are eligible...And they are also among those who expect their first child, most likely within the first year of their marriage," Ms Varghese said.
So, when people get married at a young age and expect a child, it results in extra pressure on the body and the nutrition depletes, she said.
The third aspect is the body mass index of women. If the women have low body mass index, they tend to have babies with low birth weight or premature babies, too.
"These are the children who would most likely be stunted in their life. It is a condition that cannoted be correcte. So, that means your growth spurt has been arrested," Varghese said.
So, there is also the risk of passing it on from one generation to another.
There is also more evidence emerging to show that due inadequate nutrition at the time of pregnancy, DNA might fail to express in its full capacity.
"So, such children in their adult life, are more prone to lifestyle disorders like diabetes specifically," Varghese said.
So, nutrition is a very, critical part of our overall life status and specifically during pregnancy.
'Important to Break Intergenerational Impact'
Anaemia in pregnancy can be corrected.
"If you are able to identify pregnancy on time and able to provide them with the preventive medication like iron and folic acid supplements...then with good nutrition, it gets corrected to a great extent," Varghese said.
Making sure that good nutrition at the time of the pregnancy so that it can be given to the child is also doable.
"But these are the things you address at the nick of time. If you really want to address it, you should address at all stages of birth," Varghese said.
Young children should have a good diet so that they grow with adequate nutrition.
Even if that is lost, the second window of opportunity for us is adolescence. So, addressing adolescent nutrition, and especially for women and girls is a very important thing, Varghese said.
If we lose the adolescent as the age group, then it could be difficult to catch up, she said. That is when we have to address all the issues which spillover during pregnancy.
"Preconception nutrition, adolescent nutrition - we need to invest on all these things to make sure that we have a population which is adequately nourished for generations to come."