Poor health has repercussions not only on women but also on their families. Poor nutrition among women begins in infancy and continues throughout their life time. Women with poor health and nutrition are more likely to give birth to low birth weight infants. They are also less likely to be able to provide proper food and adequate care for their children. Women’s health affects a household’s economic well being too as, a woman with poor health, will be less productive in the labour force. Inadequate and improper utilization of health facilities as well as wide spread anemia among women of reproductive age often leads to a high maternal mortality rate.
Studies on nutritional status of women show significant prevalence of vitamin A deficiency and B complex deficiency symptoms among rural and tribal women. Tribal women showed a higher, significant prevalence of chronic energy deficiency and goiter.
Most Indian mothers are malnourished, anemia and have short pregnancy interval which could have been easily prevented. Women especially in younger age are at high obstetric risk.
Several studies underscore the relationship between maternal nutrition and incidence of low birth weight (Agarwal 1984). The prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies - a study carried out by NNMB (2003) revealed that the overall prevalence of anaemia was observed to be highest among lactating women (78%) followed by pregnant Women (75%) and adolescent girls (70%).
The high fertility of Indian women is one of the most detrimental socio-cultural influences on nutritional status because the metabolic stresses of pregnancy and lactation may not be adequately compensated by dietary intake before, during or even after these physiological processes. During pregnancy women access to foods even more restricted in the traditional Indian household through taboos and ritual observances, which are widely documented in both rural and tribal population (Chatterjee, 1989).
Maternal education has a significant influence on nutritional status. Malnutrition is a serious health concern that women face and it threatens their survival as well as that of their children. The negative effects of malnutrition among women are compounded by heavy work demands, poverty, child bearing and rearing and special nutritional needs of women resulting in increased susceptibility to illness and consequently higher morbidity.
Since this has a more pervasive impact on the birth weight and health of their infants it becomes essential to take necessary action to improve the situation.