Common nutritional deficiencies in Indian pregnant women
A woman is probably the most cautious about her diet when she is pregnant, as another life completely depends on her for survival and growth. This is the reason why the importance of a balanced diet cannot be emphasised enough. In other words, the meals you consume should have all the macronutrients and micronutrients needed for the steady development of the foetus. However, in India, pregnant women often follow diets lacking in micronutrients like iron, zinc or folate, due to a lack of awareness, economic constraints and even cultural beliefs. Naturally, some common deficiencies creep in, which have been discussed below.
Common nutritional deficiencies and ways to manage them
Nutritional deficiency is something that might affect the growth of your unborn child. Therefore, it is vital to take proper care of your diet during this delicate phase of pregnancy.
The deficiency of iron is quite prevalent among pregnant women across the globe, and more so in India. Iron is the main component of the red blood cells and transports oxygen to the body’s cells and tissues. Also, the iron present in animal foods is better absorbed by the human body. However, in India, a lot of mothers follow vegetarian or vegan diets. These women are at a higher risk of iron deficiency, which shows up as anaemia, with a drop in the number of red blood cells. This disease reduces the blood's ability to carry oxygen efficiently. Deficiency of iron is marked by weakness, tiredness, and impaired brain functioning and weak immunity.
You can fulfil your necessary iron requirements by consuming more leafy greens, seeds, and beans, whereas red meats and shellfish can be consumed if you are a non-vegetarian. Vegetarian sources can be consumed with vitamin C rich foods for better absorption. Iron supplements are often recommended during pregnancy too.
Calcium is crucial for the development and maintenance of bones, teeth and the cell structure of the body. Also, without a proper supply of calcium, the nerves, muscles and the heart will not be able to function well. Dark leafy vegetables, dairy products and fishes with bones are good sources of calcium.
One in every three pregnant women in India is believed to suffer from iodine deficiency during pregnancy. Iodine is necessary for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland and the production of thyroxin hormone. This hormone is needed for various body functions and the development of the child’s brain and bones. Its deficiency can also cause unexpected weight gain, increased heart rate, and deformities in the foetus. Fish, eggs, and dairy products are iodine-rich foods you can eat, apart from iodised salt.
Deficiency of vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin A
The deficiency of vitamin D in pregnant women can lead to weaker bones in children. This vitamin is very difficult to get only through diet, and hence, supplements are often recommended during pregnancy.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is often found in pregnant women who are vegetarians. Its deficiency can affect the growth and development of the brain of the unborn child, and can be fulfilled through foods like meats, fish, eggs, and dairy products.
Vitamin A is critical for the development of foetal eyesight, and high deficiencies can even cause blindness. A serious deficiency of this vitamin can lead to impaired immunity as well. Hence, fish, liver oil, carrots, dark leafy greens, and sweet potatoes must be included in your diet during pregnancy.
To wrap up, staying healthy and getting all the essential nutrients are essential to keep your foetus safe during pregnancy. You can also consult a doctor to ensure his or her proper development in your womb, especially if your diet is not sufficient to meet your nutritional needs.