Nutrition during pregnancy

Ending the viscous cycle of poor nutrition

মায়ের কোলে শিশু

The challenge

Bangladesh faces a ‘double burden’ of malnutrition among women

Over the last decade, the proportion of women with low body mass index, an indicator of undernutrition, has decreased markedly from 34 to 19 per cent. 

However, the proportion of overweight women increased alarmingly from 9 to 24 per cent over the same period. 

Thus, while undernutrition among women of childbearing age has declined, overall malnutrition status—with the rise of overweight and obesity—has remained the same for the women. 

Bangladesh is facing a ‘double burden’ of malnutrition among women. Adolescent nutrition also remains a major issue. Child marriage is extremely common and undermines the nourishment needs of adolescent girls. Around 29 per cent of girls are malnourished. This is particularly significant given adolescent birth rate in Bangladesh is among the highest in the world.
Early pregnancy raises the risk of morbidity and mortality of both mother and newborn. Babies born to adolescent mothers often have low birth weight, which begins a cycle of poor nutritional outcomes.

Adolescents aged 15 between 19 are twice as likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth compared to women older than age 20, according to global data. Adolescents younger than age 15 are 5 times more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth.

Adolescent girls in Bangladesh also exhibit high-levels of micronutrient deficiencies and on an average half of all women is effected by anaemia, which is the absence of healthy red blood cells for carrying oxygen.

Body Mass Index is a measure of body fat based on height and weight. Adult women and men below BMI 18.5 are undernourished, while those over BMI 25 are overweight.

১৫-১৯ বছর বয়সীদের মধ্যে প্রায় ২৪ শতাংশ মেয়ে পুষ্টিহীনতায় ভোগে

Nearly 24 per cent of women aged 15-49 are undernourished

ঠাকুরগাঁও জেলা হাসপাতালে নবজাতক

About 38 per cent of all children are born with low-birth weight



এখন ২১ থেকে ২৪ বছর বয়সী মেয়েদের মধ্যে ৫২ শতাংশের বিয়ে হয়েছে বয়স ১৮ বছর হওয়ার আগেই

Around 52 per cent of girls now aged between 21 and 24 were married before reaching 18 years of age

The solution

UNICEF works to improve the situation of pregnant adolescent girls

UNICEF supports nutrition counselling of pregnant mothers, and works to scale up coverage through anti-natal care visits.
Providing adolescent friendly health services is crucial under the government’s Adolescent Reproductive Health Strategy and Health Population Nutrition Sector programme.

UNICEF works to improve the situation of pregnant adolescent girls, providing high-quality intervention and information crucial for improved nutritional status. It works to increase access to nutrition services for adolescents and their understanding and increase demand for services.

In partnership with the government, UNICEF trains health workers on counselling practices along with strengthening their skills in responsive communication.
Using the three steps, they are provided the capacity to assess, analyse and act on current practices and bring about change.
Health workers trained with UNICEF support explain to mothers and adolescents the life-cycle approach to undernutrition and its consequences for adolescents, adult, pregnant and lactating women. 

For better nutrition of mothers, UNICEF supports more screening and monitoring of pregnancy weight gain, besides emphasising on dietary diversity and consumption of diversified foods during pregnancy.
UNICEF develops its plans for improving the nutritional status of pregnant and lactating mothers recognising as key priorities -- access to education, resource mobilisation, socioeconomic status, age of marriage, age of first birth, and control over resources.


Bangladesh Demographic and Health Survey 2014; National Institute of Population Research and Training, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

National Strategy for Adolescent Health 2017-2030; Directorate General of Family Planning, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Operational Plan For “National Nutrition Services” July 2011 - June 2016; Health, Population and Nutrition Sector Development Program (HPNSDP), Directorate General of Health Services, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare

Health, Population and Nutrition Sector Programme (4th HPNSP); Ministry of Health and Family Welfare