Nutrition Education and Counselling: An Essential Consideration to Optimise Maternal Nutrition and Pregnancy Outcomes In Kenya.
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Several women in developing countries enter pregnancy at sub-optimal nutrient levels and also engage in strenuous physical activity. Multiple deficiencies are due to low dietary intake and poor bioavailability of micronutrients as well as minimal consumption of animal products. Studies have shown that very few women in developing countries consume food group servings and nutrients consistent with RDA and most continue with heavy physical activity throughout their pregnancies which further increases their energy requirements. Infections also put on additional burden on the dietary needs of women by decreasing appetite and reducing nutrient absorption and their metabolic stress increase energy and nutrient needs. Thus, vulnerable groups are at risk of developing nutritional deficiencies without food support programmes. Malnourished women do not gain sufficient weight during pregnancy, are more likely to have miscarriages or stillbirths, give birth to preterm babies or deliver babies with low birth weight, have increased risk of maternal mortality, increased infections, anaemia, compromised immune functions, lethargy, lower productivity, increased risk of foetal and neonatal death, birth defects, cretinism and reduced IQ. A range of barriers acting at the individual, household and health service delivery levels continues to affect intervention coverage in Kenya inspite of much effort in addressing maternal and child health and nutrition. Much more effort is still needed in addressing maternal and child health and nutrition. Much more work is needed in order to upscale maternal and child nutrition interventions. Although not well spelt out in the maternal healthcare package, nutrition education is important as it endeavours to alter participants’ dietary intakes by remodelling behavioural factors. Positive behaviour adjustments by participants in nutrition education and counselling interventions have been reported by several authors. Nutrition education intervention is therefore an essential consideration to optimise maternal nutrition and pregnancy outcomes. The government needs to incorporate nutrition education into the mainstream primary healthcare arrangement for pregnant women.
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