A quarter of women of reproductive age in India are undernourished, with a body mass index (BMI) of less than 18.5 kg/m (Source: NFHS 4 2015-16 ). It is well known that an undernourished mother inevitably gives birth to an undernourished baby, perpetuating an intergenerational cycle of undernutrition.
Undernourished girls have a greater likelihood of becoming undernourished mothers who in turn have a greater chance of giving birth to low birth weight babies , perpetuating an intergenerational cycle.
This cycle can be compounded further in young mothers, especially adolescent girls who begin childbearing before they have grown and developed enough. When mothers take only short intervals between pregnancies and have many children, this can exacerbate nutrition deficits, which are then passed on to their children.
Foetal stunting is largely caused by the mother’s inadequate nutrition before conception and in the first trimester.
The major reason for stagnant levels of undernutrition among Indian children is because of a failure so far to adequately prevent undernutrition when it happens most - in the womb, which is caused by poor nutrition of women before and during pregnancy.
Given this, women’s nutrition – before, during and after pregnancy – has now been included as a special focus area in UNICEF India’s nutrition programming. The organization now aims to give added focus to universalize the coverage of the five essential nutrition interventions for women that have been arrived at based on global and national consensus.