Background/objective: To assess the traditional postpartum practices, mother and child nutritional status and associated factors.
Subjects/methods: A cross-sectional study in 41 randomly selected villages on the outskirts of Vientiane capital city, Lao PDR (Laos). 300 pairs of infants (< 6 months of age) and their mothers were enrolled. Information was collected about pregnancy, delivery and traditional practices through a standardized questionnaire. Dietary intake and food frequency were estimated using the 24 h recall method, calibrated bowls and FAO food composition tables. Mothers' and infants' anthropometry was assessed and multivariate analysis performed.
Results: Contrasting with a high antenatal care attendance (91%) and delivery under health professional supervision (72%), a high prevalence of traditional practices was found, including exposure to hot beds of embers (97%), use of traditional herb tea as the only beverage (95%) and restricted diets (90%). Twenty-five mothers (8.3%) were underweight. Mothers had insufficient intake of calories (55.6%), lipids (67.4%), iron (92.0%), vitamins A (99.3%) and C (45%), thiamin (96.6%) and calcium (96.6%). Chewed glutinous rice was given to infants as an early (mean 34.6, 95% CI:29.3-39.8 days) complementary food by 53.7% of mothers, and was associated with stunting in 10% children (OR=1.35, 95% CI:1.04-1.75).
Conclusion: The high prevalence of traditional postpartum restricted diets and practices, and inadequate maternal nutritional intake in urban Laos, suggest that antenatal care may be an important opportunity to improve postpartum diets.