Effects of malnutrition on fetal development

Inadequate consumption of the essential nutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins, or minerals) by an individual often leads to a health condition called malnutrition. Thus, it may be caused due to either deficient or excess consumption of different nutrients. In addition to this, an imbalance of nutrients may also affect an individual’s optimum health leading to malnutrition.

Pregnant females have relatively more nutrient intakes requirements than other individuals as they have to support their body metabolism and that of the developing fetus. Thus, maternal malnutrition of pregnant females usually influences the expectant mother’s health along with the fetus growing in its womb.

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Typically, inappropriate food preferences, low income, difficulty obtaining the right number of healthy foods, and various health conditions contribute to malnutrition in individuals, including pregnant females. Poor eating and drinking habits are risk factors of malnutrition during pregnancy. It ultimately affects the developing fetus by causing various developmental (behavioral, intellectual, and others) or physical health disorders.

Effects of malnutrition on fetal development
When a pregnant female takes a little food or nutrients, the body fails to meet its energy or calorie requirements. Consequently, the fetus does not get enough nutrients to meet its body requirements for normal growth and development. This condition is more appropriately called undernutrition.

Affected females, along with the growing fetus, show deficiency signs and symptoms of various health problems commonly caused by prolonged fewer intakes of a nutrient. Some common conditions associated with nutrient deficiencies are underweight, anemia, immune system inefficiencies, vision problems, recurrent infections, and many more.

On another side, pregnant females taking excessive nutrients by consuming too much or unhealthy dietary foods generally suffer from different malnutrition problems, including overweight, obesity, hypertension (high blood pressure), diabetes, and many more.

As a consequence of regular excess nutrient intakes, the fetus is too supplied with relatively high amounts of nutrients causing health issues such as for overweight, obesity, type II diabetes, birth defects (spina bifida), and others. Some of the organs may even remain under-develop, eventually affecting the fetus’s quality of life after birth. In severe cases, malnutrition may even lead to preterm birth or mortality (death) of the fetus before its scheduled delivery.

Prevention of consequences of malnutrition during fetal development
There are various ways to prevent risks of malnutrition in pregnant females, eventually avoiding risks of malnutrition in developing fetuses. Some of these common ways helpful in preventing malnutrition and its consequences include as follows:

1) Balanced diet: Pregnant females shall regularly consume diets that contain all essential nutrients in their respective amounts. A balanced diet must have carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and vitamins in their desired proportion to satisfy their body needs. It mainly needs plenty of fruits and vegetables, nuts, cereals, whole-grain foods, and other healthy foods. However, the expectant mother shall monitor the daily calorie intake to avoid inadequate consumption of the nutrients.

2) Routine healthy lifestyle: Intakes of an adequate number of calories regularly may contribute to the unhealthy condition if an individual does not perform a good amount of physical activity. Thus, females should perform regular physical activity to avoid the risk factors for themselves and the fetus in their womb during pregnancy.

3) Avoid poor eating or drinking habits: Skipping meals during pregnancy acts as contributing factor to malnutrition. Thus, a pregnant female shall not closely monitor dietary patterns ensuring intakes at regular time intervals. Consumption of alcohol or tobacco during pregnancy interferes with the uptake of certain vitamins and minerals, thereby leading to their deficiency in the body. Pregnant females should avoid consuming alcohol and tobacco products to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients to the mother and developing fetus.

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