Malnutrition is a broad term for:

  • under-nutrition or over-nutrition
  • insufficient intake or exceeding nutrient requirements for healthy growth and maintenance

The main causes of malnutrition:

  • Inadequate intake of nutrients/calories that fall short of pregnancy demands.
  • Lack of knowledge about adequate prenatal nutrition, or dietary taboos associated with pregnancy.
  • Loss or lack of appetite due to illness/morning sickness.
  • Painful teeth or mouth conditions that prevent you from eating.
  • Use of medications that interfere with nutrient absorption.
  • Illness or other conditions that cause diarrhoea, nausea, and vomiting.

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Dangers of Malnutrition

Malnutrition poses a serious health risk to pregnant and lactating women, as it can lead to a risky pregnancy and even negatively affect the production of nourishing breast milk.

Health risks:

Undernutrition can lead to insufficient weight gain during pregnancy, thus increasing maternal and infant mortality risk. Over-nutrition on the hand, can lead to a high-birth-weight baby. Both babies who are born low birth weight (<2.5kg), and high birth weight (>4kg) are at risk of becoming overweight or obese as adults (which also increases their risk of developing chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease). Remember, what you eat and drink is the only source of nourishment for the foetus!

Folic acid is a naturally-occurring vitamin found in foods such as spinach, sprouts, broccoli, green beans and lettuce. Without sufficient folic acid in your body, your baby may develop neural tube defects such as spina bifida (incomplete development of the spinal cord or vertebrae) or anencephaly (incomplete development of major parts of the brain). You may want to discuss getting iron and folic acid supplements which may also include other vitamins and minerals with your doctor.

Preventing malnutrition

Eat according to the Malaysian Food Pyramid recommendations will help you to prevent malnutrition.

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An excellent principle to follow for a balanced and healthy diet is tha of Balance, Moderation, and Variety (BMV). Thus, your diet should be balanced by including foods from all five food groups in the Malaysian Food Pyramid, be comprised of moderate portions that are served in accordance with the recommended number of servings per food group, and consists of a wide variety of foods to meet all your nutritional needs.

An educational collaboration with Nutrition Society of Malaysia.

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