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Cross Sectional Survey of Pregnant Adolescent Malnutrition in Rural Malawi

Cross Sectional Survey of Pregnant Adolescent Malnutrition in Rural Malawi

Christine Patella

Nutritional Sciences

The high rates of adolescent pregnancies in Malawi challenge the health and nutritional status for both the mother and infant. If an adolescent is unable to meet her own nutritional needs and becomes malnourished, this may lead to a continued cycle of complications. Research involving the nutritional status of pregnant adolescents in Malawi is lacking. The purpose of this study was to assess diet diversity and nutritional status in pregnant adolescents in rural Malawi. The study included sixty-two pregnant adolescents. The mean age of the subjects was 17.7 years (SD 1.2). Of the sixty-two subjects, 84% were married, 98% were not enrolled in school, and 92% were not working outside of the home. For 89% of the subjects, this was their first pregnancy. Data were collected using a pre-tested questionnaire and a standardized dietary diversity survey. Mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC), height, weight, and hemoglobin (Hgb) were measured. The mean (SD) MUAC was 25.9 (2.0) cm. The mean Hgb was 10.4 (1.9) g/dL and 66% had a Hgb lower than 11 g/dL. In this season of relatively available fruits and vegetables, the mean diet diversity score was 3.8 (3.2). Dietary intake results included 98% eating starchy staples, 62% eating dark leafy green vegetables, 56% eating Vitamin A rich fruits and vegetables, 89% eating other fruits and vegetables, 39% eating meat or fish, 31% eating legumes, nuts, or seeds, 6% eating eggs, and 0% eating milk or milk products. Of the sixty-two subjects, 63% were not taking any vitamin/mineral supplements while 37% were taking ferrous sulfate. 35% restricted some foods during pregnancy, 52% received no advice regarding foods to eat during pregnancy, and 92% received no advice regarding infant and young child feeding (IYCF) practices. Interventions for pregnant adolescents should include nutrition education on dietary diversity, healthy nutrition during pregnancy, and IYCF guidelines.