mothers health vital for  childs health

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* healthy mother gives birth new healthy baby

* when mothers are malnourished, their babies are sickly too

* both share an intricate relationship

* mother's mental, physical and emotional health reflected in child's development

* women, therefore, must have access to best healthcare services before, during and after pregnancy

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If a child is strong and healthy, kudos must be given to the parents, especially the mother. Also if the reverse is the case, then the mother must be one of the contributory factors.  Seye Adeniyi, in this

report, highlights the importance of good nutrition before, during and after pregnancy, as well as how it affects the health of a child.

ROME, which many people admire today, was not built in a day, but the truth is that the foundation was laid by someone.

To raise healthy children also requires a lot of strategies in terms of having access to necessary information to achieve this.  The greater percentage or bulk of the knowledge to also achieve this feat, however, rest on the mother, but only few women know this secret.

There is a common slogan in the information technolgy world which says “garbage in, garbage out as your input determines your output.” This popular slogan could also be said to be applicable to the lives of human beings, especially women, because the health of a child to certain extent would be determined by that of the mother.

According to medical explanation, women account for half of Nigeria’s population numbering about 60 million and of their 27 million are said to be in their reproductive age.  Not only that, our culture which favours marriage also encourages early marriage together with low literacy rate and low contraceptive use among adult females have however, led to persistently high fertitlity rate. 

It would, however, not be too much if we demand that one of our national slogans for the on-going rebranding project of the Federal Government apart from the popular slogan of: “Good people, Great nation”, should also be:  “Healthy mothers,  Healthy children”, at least to promote the good health of Nigerian women and their children.

One  of the reasons why there should be an intensive public enlightenment  or campaign in ensuring that women have unhindered access to good health is that Nigeria is still regarded as a nation with high maternal and infant mortalities.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), maternal mortality is still very high in Nigeria and the estimated ratio is said to be 800 per  100,000 live birth. Most of these women are said to die as a result of pregnancy and pregnancy-related problems.

In fact, a recent WHO report still rated Nigeria as one of the nations with the highest maternal and infant mortality in the world.

Causes of maternal mortality and morbidity include; medical causes such as obstetric haemorrhage, antepartum or post partum infections, anaemia in pregnancy, hypertension in pregnancy, diseases such as diabetes, pregnancy-related sepsis, obstructed labour, pre-eclampsia or eclampsia, HIV/AIDs, etc.

Moreover, there are other  problems that may pose a  threat to the lives of  women during pregnancy and if not handled well, may cause mortality.  For instance, socio- cultural and economic factors like low status of women, low education, low income/poverty,  harmful traditional practices, cultural norms, ignorance and illiteracy as well as religious believe that could act as a barrrier to the utilisation of available health services can cut short the life of a pregnant woman.

Poor nutrition in childhood, adolescent and adulthood also play  significant role in a woman’s life and this to certain extent would determine the health of her children.

To make pregnancy safer, which could also make the baby to be healthy, a pregnant woman must eat good food throughout the nine months of pregnancy and after delivery, the baby must also be exposed to good diets which must begin with exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life.

Thereafter, the weaned baby must be exposed to good, nutritious diets in order to grow healthily.

Various researches have also shown that what a mother eats before and at the time of conception goes a long way in determining the health of her baby. According to Dr. Sina Oladokun, a consultant gynaecologist, “if as a woman, you are already eating on healthy diet at the time of conception,  you will definitely increase your baby’s chances of being healthy at birth.

The developing baby, it should be noted, depends on its mothers for all its food from the moment it is conceived. So if the mother’s diet is healthy, the baby is more likely to be healthy”, he stated.

It must also be emphasised that the cognitive or mental health development of a child is often determined or affected by the type of food the mother was exposed to during pregnancy. Studies have also revealed that the incidences of child mortality and morbidity are highest in Nigeria and Africa generally among children less than five years of age. 

Even among those under five years age, morbidity and mortality is said to be highest within the first year of life.

Pregnancy and child birth is a physiological process and it is also a joyful experience to individual and families. But this joy can be spoilt if the mother is not well fed  during pregnancy.

Furthermore, for a woman  looking for the fruit of the womb or preparing for pregnancy, especially a first-timer, there is need to make sure that right from conception  onwards, you provide your baby with all the nutrients needed for a healthy development.

Therefore, such a woman is advised to eat a variety of foods to get a range of different nutrients. The best guide to a healthy eating going by the advice of dieticians is to keep down the amount of sugar and fat she eats, and to step up the amount of fresh fruits, fresh vegetables and cereals she consume.
Sugary foods like cakes, biscuits, chocolates, sweets, as well as some sweetened drinks, contain a lot of calories and these can make her put on weight without giving much desired goodness.

Fruits and vegetables, according to nutritionists, are also important good sources of vitamins, but the vitamins content is reduced during cooking, processing and storage. Therefore, it is advisable to eat them raw whenever possible and fresh one should not be stored for a long time before use.

Frozen vegetables, are often as good as the available fresh ones and they don’t lose vitamins during storage in freezers. Cereals, according to  nutritionists and dieticians  are also important for fibre which the body needs to quicken digestion and thus  prevent constipation.

Cereal foods which contain a lot of fibre include; wholegrains, breakfast cereals, wholemeal and brown bread. Bread and potatoes too can make for satisfying meals without necessarily adding too many calories, long as a pregnant woman go easy on the amount of butter or margarine she consumes, advised Tunde Ajobo, a dietician at the University College Hospital (UCH), Ibadan.

Protein is also an important food to eat during pregnancy if a pregnant woman wants to have a healthy child. Protein-rich food includes meat; fresh eggs or cheese. Beans, peas, nut, etc, are also good sources of protein needed by a pregnant woman,  which would also help the baby grow healthily.

Dairy foods like milk, cheese and yoghurt are also said to be good food that can make a woman have a healthy baby during pregnancy as well as after delivery. These dairy foods contain calcium which is very important for the baby’s development.

But it should be noted that some diary foods contain a lot of fat, so it is advisable to visit a nutritionist or dietician who will advise  on which to go for or consider.  Fat is not needed on a large quantity during pregnancy because it can make a pregnant woman add more weight.

A pregnant woman desiring a healthy child must also know that it is important to get enough iron in whatever food she eats. Iron is needed for a healthy blood supply and its insufficiency or lack at this stage may give room for anaemia. Apart from the iron tablets that may be prescribed by doctors, one of the best ways of getting iron is to eat liver, once or twice a week, as well as other types of meat.

Iron in meat is easily absorbed by the body and also help the body absorbs the iron in other foods. According to dieticians, a woman need vitamin C in fruits like oranges, grapefruit, lemons, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, tomatoes, sprouts, broccolis, cauliflowers, cabbage, spinach, leeks, potatoes and green peppers.

Ajobo buttressed this assertion and advised pregnant women not to underrate iron and vitamin C. Another vitamin believed to be important in pregnancy in order to have a healthy child is folic acid. Folic acid is needed for the baby’s development and it is important in the early weeks of pregnancy just after conception.

Foods containging folic acid are liver; kidneys; spinach, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, as well as peanuts. Folic acid can also be derived from wholemeal bread and brown rice.

In conclusion, healthy and safe eating during pregnancy goes a long way in determining the health of our children. The health of mothers and children in Nigeria is generally said to be far from the ideal, brought about by poor social status of women, lack of reproductive health information and failure to be exposed to nutritious diets during pregnancy among several other factors.

Therefore, improving women status through education and economic empowerment by providing qualitative health services will definitely go a long way in enhancing the health of mothers and their children. A healthy mother, will indeed, produce a healthy child.

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