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Pregnant teens more at-risk to malnutrition

By Imelda A. Agdeppa, Ph.D.
FNRI-DOST S & T Media Service

Pregnancy, according to the United Nations’ World Health Organization (UN-WHO), is the period of about seven to nine months on the average when a woman carries a developing fetus in the womb. 

For most women, pregnancy is a time of great happiness and fulfillment, but it is also the period when both the woman and the developing child face health risks. 

According to the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), one out four adolescent or teenage pregnant women are more nutritionally at-risk than older pregnant women. 

Many health problems associated with negative outcomes of pregnancy occur during this vulnerable age. These include anemia, post-partum hemorrhage or excessive bleeding after childbirth and mental disorders, such as depression. 

Pregnant adolescent girls also have to discontinue schooling and often have less access to health services and information due to socio-cultural isolation. 

Pregnancy at a young age leads to long-term counter-productive implications to individuals, families and communities, as adolescence represents a key stage in development and is a critical opportunity for ensuring successful transition to adulthood. 

Poor reproductive health outcomes can often be traced to adolescence since educational achievement, life skills and decision-making on childbearing have profound effects on the lives of adolescents, families, communities and society. 

Related to this, the FNRI-DOST conducted a national survey on the nutritional status of Filipino pregnant women in 2011. 

Results of the survey revealed that one in three or 35.7 percent of adolescent pregnant women below 20 years old are nutritionally at-risk. 

Studies have shown that the nutritional status of the mother during pregnancy affects the birthweight of infant such that the rates of low birthweight are higher among babies of adolescents, increasing the mortality rate and incidence of future health problems of the baby. 

Low birthweight of a liveborn infant, which is less than 2.5 kilos, is a major health problem because it has adverse effects on child survival and development. 

Low birthweight also affects the person throughout life and is associated with poor growth in childhood and a higher incidence of adult diseases, such as diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease. 

An additional risk for adolescents is having smaller babies when these adolescents become mothers. 

Adolescent pregnant women need and deserve the help and support of family members, friends and health professionals. 

Such support will be more effective if government will focus on maternal health advocacy. 

More trained and skilled health workers that adapt to the demands of increasing population are needed. 

Since low educational level is closely associated with early childbearing, responsible parenthood in the school curriculum should be intensified and economic opportunities for teenage families must be instituted. 

For more information on food and nutrition, you may contact Dr. Mario V. Capanzana, Director, Food and Nutrition Research Institute, Department of Science and Technology, General Santos Avenue, Bicutan, Taguig City. Email: Telefax: 837-2934 and 827-3164, or call 837-2071 local 2296 or visit our website:


  1. it's really hard to get pregnant, what more of you're not ready. I hope DOH, DepEd and CHED create more and effective strategies to counter this problem.

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    Great Information.
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