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Inter generational cycle of growth failure and its prevention

Often malnutrition runs through generations thus hampering growth. A woman who starts her family as a small adult woman due to malnutrition during her childhood, usually gives birth to a small low birth weight baby.

Inter-generational cycle of growth failure

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To break this vicious cycle of malnutrition, nutrition of adolescent girls and women of reproductive age should be improved.

Recommended practices to improve the nutrition of adolescent girls 10-19 yrs and women of reproductive age.

Recommended at all times

  • Increase food intake if underweight to protect adolescent girls and women's health and establish reserves for pregnancy and lactation.
  • Diversify the diet to improve the quality and micronutrient intake.
  • Increase daily consumption of fruits and vegetables.
  • Consume animal products like milk or eggs or fish if feasible.
  • Use fortified foods such as vitamin A enriched sugar and other products and iron enriched and vitamin enriched flour or other staples when available.
  • Use iodized salt
  • If micronutrient requirements cannot be met through available food sources supplement containing folic acid. Iron, vitamin A, zinc, calcium, and other micronutrients may need to build stores and improve women's nutritional status.

Recommended during periods of certain needs.

  • At times girls and women have heightened nutritional requirements. During these times they should follow the above recommendations plus those listed below.

During adolescence and before pregnancy

  • Increase food intake to accommodate the adolescent growth spurt and to establish energy reserves for pregnancy and lactation.
  • Delay the first pregnancy to help ensure full growth and nutrient stores.

During pregnancy

  • Increase the food intake to permit adequate weight gain to support fetal growth and future lactation.
  • Take iron / folic acid tablets regularly.

During lactation.

  • Eat the equivalent of an additional, nutritionally balanced meal per day.
  • In areas where Vitamin A deficiency is common take a high dose vitamin A capsule as soon as delivery as possible but no later than 8 weeks postpartum to build stores, improve the vitamin A content of breast milk and reduce the infant and maternal morbidity.
  • Delay the next pregnancy by using appropriate methods.

During the interval between stopping lactation and the next pregnancy

  • Plan and ensure an adequate period at least 6 months between stopping lactation and the next pregnancy to allow for the necessary build up of energy and micronutrient reserves.

Source: Portal Content Development Team

Related Resources

  • Maternal nutrition and the intergenerational cycle of growth failure - Chapter 3 of Sixth report on the world nutrition situation


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