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Nutritional status and dietary diversity of pregnant women in rural KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa

Carin Napier
Kelly Warriner
Maureen N. Sibiya
Poovendhree Reddy


Background: Pregnancy is a critical period during which maternal nutrient intake and nutritional status impact both the mother and the infant.  Various factors including good nutrition play a role in a healthy pregnancy outcome. A healthy diet has an important role in the birthweight and well-being of both the mother and the child.

Aim: The aim of this descriptive study was to determine the nutritional status and food intake of a group of pregnant women (N = 100) in early pregnancy (up to 24 weeks gestation).

Setting: The study took place in a Public Health Care Facility located at Umkhumbane (Mayville) and forms part of the EThekwini district operated by the Provincial and eThekwini Municipality situated in Kwa Zulu Natal, South Africa.

Methods: This study utilised a quantitative, descriptive research design and included 100 pregnant women attending a public healthcare clinic in KwaZulu-Natal province, South Africa. Consenting women were measured for height and weight to determine body mass index (BMI) as an indicator of nutritional status. Food intake was evaluated through two 24-h dietary recall questionnaires and a food frequency questionnaire. Actual food intake was analysed for nutrient content and compared to the Dietary Reference Intake for women aged 19–30 years. A food variety score and food group diversity score were determined to establish the adequacy of the diet to support the first phase of pregnancy.

Results: Except for carbohydrates and vitamin A, all the nutrients consumed by the women were lower than the recommended daily amounts. Fruit and vegetable intake was half of the recommended daily amount and a medium food variety score was observed. A large percentage (55%) of the women had a BMI that fell in the obese category.

Conclusion: Although various factors can impact birth outcome, food choices made by women did not reflect the food choices to maintain a healthy  pregnancy and contribute to a healthy birth outcome. Nutrition education aimed at girls of childbearing age and pregnant women is
important to increase their awareness about a healthy pregnancy and healthy birth outcome.

Keywords: pregnancy; nutritional status; food diversity; diet; first trimester of pregnancy; nutritional status.