SEARCH

SEARCH BY CITATION

The burden of maternal morbidity and mortality in developing countries is high. Each year, 600,000 women die from pregnancy-related causes and 62 million women suffer from morbidity and complications of pregnancy. The extent to which maternal nutrition can improve maternal health and survival is not well understood. Excluding deaths due to induced abortions, the other four main causes of maternal mortality (preeclampsia, hemorrhage, obstructed labor, and infection) may be amenable to nutrition interventions. The role of calcium in reducing the incidence of preeclampsia and hypertension is promising, but more research in deficient populations is urgently needed. Antenatal iron supplementation, although frequently recommended to prevent anemia during pregnancy, has had little program success. Severe anemia may be an important cause of maternal mortality, but convincing evidence is lacking on the health consequences of mild-to-moderate maternal anemia. Knowledge of the etiology of anemia is important in identifying effective strategies for combating it. Other vitamins such as folate, B12, and vitamin A may enhance the 12 effect of iron supplementation in populations where multiple nutrition deficiencies exist. Maternal night blindness is widespread in South Asian women. In Nepal, this condition is associated with markedly increased risks of vitamin A deficiency, anemia, morbidity, and maternal and infant mortality. These findings need to be replicated elsewhere in South Asia. One study has shown vitamin A and beta carotene supplementation to reduce maternal mortality and morbidity. These findings need testing in different settings with emphasis on investigating the mechanisms of the effect. The area of prepregnancy nutrition and its influence on prolonged and obstructed labor is wide open for investigation. The scope for research in the area of maternal nutrition and health is large and the onus is on nutritionists to bring to the forefront the role of nutrition in maternal health and survival.