In the 1990s, evidence of an association between maternal anthropometric status and poor birth outcomes was found. Yet, these findings did not translate into programs that incorporate interventions to address maternal nutrition. Identifying determinants of poor maternal nutrition, including motivations and barriers to achieve adequate dietary intake during pregnancy have been limited. A literature review was conducted to examine issues and challenges on integrating maternal diet and weight gain during pregnancy into routine antenatal care programming
Literature review of peer-reviewed and grey literature was conducted and results summarized from 165 papers.
Barriers to adequate nutrition during pregnancy frequently included cultural beliefs related to knowledge of quantity of food to eat during pregnancy, amount of weight to gain during pregnancy, and “eating down” during pregnancy for fear of delivering a large baby. Foods considered inappropriate for consumption during pregnancy or lactation, such as, spicy, bad-smelling, and nausea-inducing foods, contributed to food restriction. Drivers of food choice were influenced by food aversions, economic constraints, and household food availability. Counseling on maternal diet and weight gain during pregnancy was seldom reported.
Programming to support healthy maternal diet during pregnancy are scant, despite evidence of its importance. Nutrition education and counseling on diet during pregnancy and lactation and the importance of optimal weight gain during pregnancy can be implemented through routine antenatal care. Channels such as mothers’ support groups or schools can also provide a platform to discuss changing dietary needs with young girls, adolescents and/or women.