Prenatal origins of undernutrition

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

9 Scopus citations


Undernutrition continues to be high in many regions of the developing world. Birthweight, a common proxy measure of intrauterine growth, is influenced by nutritional, environmental and lifestyle factors during pregnancy and, in turn, affects immediate survival and function, and is a determinant of later life risk of chronic diseases. Maternal pre-pregnancy weight and height are independently associated with birthweight and also modify the effects of pregnancy weight gain and interventions during pregnancy on birthweight and perinatal mortality. Other prenatal factors commonly known to impact birthweight include maternal age, parity, sex, and birth interval, whereas lifestyle factors such as physical activity and maternal stress, as well as environmental toxicants have variable influences. Tobacco and other substance use and infections, specifically ascending reproductive tract infections, malaria, and HIV, can cause intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR). Few studies have examined the contribution of prenatal factors including low birthweight to childhood wasting and stunting. Studies that have examined this, with adequate adjustment for confounders, have generally found odds ratios associated with low birthweight ranging between 2 and 5. Even fewer studies have examined birth length or maternal nutritional status as risk factors. More research is needed to determine the proportion of childhood under-nutrition attributable to IUGR so that interventions can be targeted to the appropriate life stages.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationEmerging Societies - Coexistence of Childhood Malnutrition and Obesity
Subtitle of host publication63rd Nestle Nutrition Institute Workshop, Pediatric Program
EditorsSatish Kalhan, Andrew Prentice, Chittaranjan Yajnik
Number of pages19
StatePublished - 2009

Publication series

NameNestle Nutrition Workshop Series: Pediatric Program
ISSN (Print)1661-6677
ISSN (Electronic)1662-3878

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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