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Underweight & pregnant: Maternity entitlements and weight gain during pregnancy

Research, Maternal Health1 min read

Authors: Diane Coffey, and Payal Hathi

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Poor maternal nutrition in India is a major cause for concern. The depth of India's maternal nutrition problems is evident in its high neonatal mortality, widespread underweight pre-pregnancy, low weight gain during pregnancy, and high rates of maternal anemia. Poor maternal nutrition has negative consequences for the health and economic productivity for the next generation.

Existing government programs are insufficient to address widespread maternal malnutrition. With the passage of the National Food Security Act, which legislates a universal maternity entitlement, the government has a new opportunity to address poor maternal nutrition.

This article posits that maternity entitlements should be used to encourage weight gain during pregnancy, and discusses the promise of such a program, as well as its potential limitations. It also recommends ways of designing and administering a maternity entitlements program that would improve its chances for success.


r.i.c.e. is a non-profit research organization focused on health and well-being in India. Our core focus is on children in rural north India. Our research studies health care at the start of life, sanitation, air pollution, maternal health, social inequality, and other dimensions of population-level social wellbeing.

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