Energy stress during pregnancy and lactation: Consequences for maternal nutrition in rural Bangladesh

D. S. Alam, J. M.A. van Raaij, J. G.A.J. Hautvast, M. Yunus, G. J. Fuchs

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


Objective: To assess the relationship of energy stress during pregnancy and lactation to maternal body stores in marginally nourished rural Bangladeshi women. Subjects and methods: Two-hundred and fifty-two women were followed from 5-7 months of pregnancy until 6 months postpartum. Energy intake was estimated during pregnancy and at 1, 3 and 6 month(s) postpartum using 24 h dietary recall. Body weight was measured on enrollment, another once or twice during pregnancy, and at 1, 3 and 6 month(s) postpartum. The weekly rates of pregnancy weight gain and postpartum weight changes were determined. Weight and length of the infants were measured at birth and at approximately 1, 3 and 6 month(s). Results: Maternal energy intake at 5-7 months of gestation was 1464 ± 416 kcal/day (mean ± s.d.). Women gained a mean of 200 g/week or a total of 4 kg during the second half of pregnancy. An analysis of maternal weight showed no indication of accrual of fat stores during pregnancy. Dietary energy during lactation exceeded the intake during pregnancy by 248-354 kcal/day. Mothers lost an estimated average of 1 kg of weight during the first 6 months of lactation. The mean (± s.d.) birth weight was 2.55 ± 0.38 kg, and the prevalence of low birth weight (< 2500 g) was 48%. Infants exhibited some catch-up growth only during the first 3 months but overall growth during the first 6 months did not change from their relative status at birth when compared with NCHS reference. Conclusions: These rural Bangladeshi women failed to gain sufficient weight during the last half of pregnancy to maintain body weight during lactation when the energy demand is high. Poor growth of their primarily breastfed infants raises concern about the adequacy of lactation in this community.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-156
Number of pages6
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Nutrition
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2003

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was conducted at ICDDRB: Centre for Health and Population Research with support from a grant USAID=OMNI HNI’s CA no. HRN-5122-A-00-3046-00-(‘CA’). ICDDRB acknowledges with gratitude the commitment of USAID=OMNI to the Centre’s research efforts. We are thankful to Professor Lars Åke Persson for his valuable suggestions on the initial version of this manuscript. Financial support from the Division of Human Nutrition and Epidemiology at Wageningen University during analysis and write-up is gratefully acknowledged.


  • Birth weight
  • Energy intake
  • Infant growth
  • Postpartum weight
  • Pregnancy weight gain
  • Rural Bangladesh

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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