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Review
, 72 (1 Suppl), 212S-240S

Nutrition and Maternal Mortality in the Developing World

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Review

Nutrition and Maternal Mortality in the Developing World

D Rush. Am J Clin Nutr.

Erratum in

  • Am J Clin Nutr 2001 Jan;73(1):134

Abstract

This review relates nutritional status to pregnancy-related death in the developing world, where maternal mortality rates are typically >/=100-fold higher than rates in the industrialized countries. For 3 of the central causes of maternal mortality (ie, induced abortion, puerperal infection, and pregnancy-induced hypertension), knowledge of the contribution of nutrition is too scanty for programmatic application. Hemorrhage (including, for this discussion, anemia) and obstructed labor are different. The risk of death is greatly increased with severe anemia (Hb <70 or 80 g/L); there is little evidence of increased risk associated with mild or moderate anemia. Current programs of universal iron supplementation are unlikely to have much effect on severe anemia. There is an urgent need to reassess how to approach anemia control in pregnant women. Obstructed labor is far more common in short women. Unfortunately, nutritional strategies for increasing adult stature are nearly nonexistent: supplemental feeding appears to have little benefit after 3 y of age and could possibly be harmful at later ages, inducing accelerated growth before puberty, earlier menarche (and possible earlier marriage), and unchanged adult stature. Deprived girls without intervention typically have late menarche, extended periods of growth, and can achieve nearly complete catch-up growth. The need for operative delivery also increases with increased fetal size. Supplementary feeding could therefore increase the risk of obstructed labor. In the absence of accessible obstetric services, primiparous women <1.5 m in height should be excluded from supplementary feeding programs aimed at accelerating fetal growth. The knowledge base to model the risks and benefits of increased fetal size does not exist.

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