Poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy is a major cause of low birth weight, which is associated with an increased risk of morbidity and mortality in developing countries including Ethiopia. Some groups of population particularly pregnant women and children require targeted strategies like micronutrient supplementation and fortified complementary foods to improve the nutritional value of complementary foods for children. To meet the needs of these groups of population, interventions must address the food supply as a whole, whether by increasing availability and utilization of a more diverse diet and/or improving the micronutrient content of foods that are commonly consumed. In order to implement the changes in strategies, adequate information on the dietary adequacy of these groups of vulnerable population is required. The main purpose of this study was to determine the dietary intakes among pregnant women in Ethiopia and to assess the adequacy of the dietary intakes by comparing the results with EAR values.
A cross sectional design was followed to conduct the 2011 Ethiopian national food consumption survey using single 24 hour dietary recall among a nationally representative sample of women (n=8133) age 15-45 years. A sub-sample of pregnant women (n=540) for whom nutrient intakes and dietary diversity score were analyzed in this study.
Pregnant womens median intakes were below the estimated average requirement (EAR) for calcium, zinc, vitamin A, and protein. Relatively, iron and carbohydrate intakes were above the EAR. Prevalence of inadequate intake of carbohydrate, protein, calcium, iron, zinc and vitamin A (< EAR values) as reported for pregnant women of age group (14-18) and (19-45) by single 24 hour recall in Ethiopia (n=540) respectively were (11.1 and 11.1) %, (66.5 and 66.5) %, (100 and 86) %, (30.8 and 36.1) %, (84.6 and 74.2) % and (84.6 and 84.4) %. The mean dietary diversity score was 2.85 (minimum dietary diversity score proposed by FAO = 4).
This study showed that the diet of pregnant women in Ethiopia was not adequate. It was low in dietary diversity, protein, calcium, zinc and vitamin A. Dietary diversification complemented with nutrition education for pregnant women can narrow the nutrient gap considerably.