Pregnant women and those trying to conceive a baby may be scared about what happens to the baby if a pregnant mother does not eat properly. While the question is a very common one, the answer to this question is complicated. Every woman is different and every baby is different. Proper nutrition before, during, and after pregnancy is crucial to the health of both mother and baby; however, the exact effects of improper nutrition vary from case to case. Some results of poor nutrition in pregnant mothers are: death of the fetus, low birth weight, and several congenital conditions, such as neural tube defects, which are a common result of inadequate consumption of folate in pregnant women.
What Happens to the Baby if a Pregnant Mother Does Not Eat Properly
Several outcomes are possible, ranging from the fetus dying to having a child of low birth weight but with no other adverse symptoms. Each case is slightly different.
Fetus and Infant Death
If a mother is truly malnourished, it can lead to death of the fetus or a baby who is more likely to die in infancy than a child whose mother was properly nourished. These cases are, thankfully, very rare in areas of the world with prenatal care. Pregnant women with severe anorexia or bulimia might have this experience if they conceive, but for women who eat three or more times a day, this is truly a rare result of improper nutrition. General malnutrition in the mother is far more likely to cause physical and/or neurological defects in unborn children than it is to cause their death.
Women who do not consume enough foods rich in vitamins and other nutrients may have babies who grow slowly due to the lack of resources available in the pregnant woman's body. While a baby being small may not seem like such a problem on the surface, insufficient growth is often a sign of other, more serious, problems underlying it.
Improper nutrition can result in many neurological disorders. In some cases, the spine and/or the brain may fail to develop normally; in less severe cases, all may seem normal, but the child may suffer from learning disabilities. Neurological disorders are potentially preventable with a significant intake of folate and vitamin B12.
Low Birth Weight
Many infants born in the lowest end of the birthweight spectrum have mothers with a more or less nutrient-deficient diet. Of course, being of low birth weight does not necessarily signify underlying problems; however, in many cases, low birth weight is a symptom of overall improper nutrition. Babies with a low birth weight are much more likely to suffer from chronic conditions and are also more likely to die during infancy.
Proper Nutrition During Pregnancy
The most important thing to remember while trying to conceive and throughout pregnant is to eat a diet that is varied and nutrient-rich. Potato chips pack in calories, but add virtually no vitamins or minerals. At the flip end of the spectrum are fruits and vegetables, which pack loads of nutrients with few calories. Pregnancy does not require a lot of extra calories, but it is an extremely important time to look at whether or not you are eating enough vitamins and other nutrients. Calcium and protein should be kept at significant levels and fat should be kept low (fewer than 60-65 grams per day in a 2000 calorie/day diet), similar to a generally healthy adult diet. Eat varied meals and aim for high nutrient density.
In addition to eating a well-rounded healthy diet, a woman who is trying to conceive or who is pregnant should consider taking a prenatal vitamin each day. This supplement gives all the right vitamins and minerals, in all the right amounts. Taking individual vitamins during pregnancy is ill-advised because some vitamins can actually cause more problems in excess than when there is a deficiency. A prenatal vitamin has all the right amounts for a pregnant woman.
While it is very scary wondering what happens to the baby if a pregnant mother does not eat properly, the best thing you can do is relax about the matter, remember to take a prenatal supplement once a day, and always ask yourself which food is more nutrient rich when you are selecting foods for yourself. These simple guidelines will ensure that you have done everything you can to ensure your baby's current and future health.