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mother and baby

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the women who are key to their families’ health and well-being.

Pregnancy is a critical time in a woman’s life, when good nutrition can influence and improve her and her child’s health. Sadly, almost 154 million women aged 20-49 are underweight and close to 613 million women of reproductive age (15-49 years) are anaemic, of whom approximately 35 million are pregnant women.1 Underweight and anaemia are key risk factors for complications during pregnancy, delivery and poor birth outcomes, including preterm birth and low birth weight (LBW) babies. Globally, 20 million children are estimated to be born with a LBW.2

Maternal anaemia puts the mother at increased risk of death during and after childbirth, most likely due to haemorrhage.3 Anaemia at any point during pregnancy also increases the risk of poor neonatal outcomes.4 Insufficient iron status during pregnancy can lead to changes in the formation of new blood vessels in the placenta, reducing the availability of nutrients and oxygen for the fetus; restricting its growth and resulting in a baby with low or insufficient birth weight.5 Daily iron and folic acid (IFA) supplementation is recommended by World Health Organization (WHO) to improve iron stores and prevent maternal anaemia, puerperal sepsis, low birth weight, and preterm birth.6

Preventing anaemia can contribute to women’s empowerment. One of the side effects of anaemia is fatigue, and as much as 30% impairment of physical work capacity and performance is reported in iron-deficient women and men.  IFA supplementation supports women’s health and nutrition by helping to prevent anaemia in pregnancy, and subsequently may boost women’s energy and potential to engage in economic opportunities as well as her quality of life and ability to care for herself.

On the occasion of Mother’s Day we would like to celebrate some of the recent achievements Nutrition International and our partners have made to improve the nutritional status of women during pregnancy.

In 2018, Nutrition International supported national governments in Asia and Africa to reach an additional 1.2 million pregnant women who consumed at least 90 IFA supplements. This improved the iron status of an estimated 185,000 pregnant women and in turn averted approximately 56,000 cases of LBW.

Nutrition International has been working in IFA supplementation in pregnancy for over 10 years and has made progress in strengthening the enabling environment in which IFA supplementation in pregnancy programs take place, leading to better prevention and control of anaemia in pregnancy.

Additionally, Nutrition International advocates strengthening antenatal care (ANC) which is the key to receiving quality care during pregnancy. This includes nutrition recommendations, as per the 2016 WHO ANC guidelines, incorporating interpersonal counseling focused on dietary diversity, appropriate weight gain guided by measurement and the use of IFA supplements. Nutrition International also recognizes the importance of engaging men in maternal health and does so through integrating and challenging gender norms in our behaviour change interventions (BCI), through specific materials developed for ANC.

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate mothers and the power of nutrition in ensuring well-nourished mothers, healthy babies and strong societies. Join us in continuing our efforts to tackle anaemia and reduce the risk of babies born too soon and too small.


  1. Global Nutrition Report, Shining a light to spur action on nutrition. 2018
  2. Global Nutrition Report, Shining a light to spur action on nutrition. 2018
  3. Young FM. Maternal Anaemia and risk of mortality: a call for action. The Lancet, Global Health; May 01, 2018; VOLUME 6 (5): E479-E480
  4. Patel A, Prakash AA, Kumar Das P, et al. Maternal anemia and underweight as determinants of pregnancy outcomes: cohort study in eastern rural Maharashtra, India. BMJ; Aug 08, 2018; 8(8): e021623
  5. Figueiredo ACMG, Gomes-Filho IS, Batista JET, et al. Maternal Anemia and birth weight: A prospective cohort study. PloS ONE; March 18, 2019 ; 14 (3): e0212817
  6. WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy. November 2016