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The role of nutrition in improving maternal health

August 17, 2023

Despite a heightened focus on maternal health in the past few years, rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. continue to rise. Pregnant people and new mothers are facing a health crisis, even though we have one of the world’s most advanced health care systems.

 I find it deplorable and heartbreaking that many of these deaths and complications are preventable. To help improve maternal health, we must continue to strengthen the programs that support pregnant people, and ensure programs include a focus on making better nutrition more accessible.

Nutritional support for mother and child
With more than 3.7 million women giving birth in our country every year, we must put a spotlight on maternal health and how we can improve the outcomes of pregnant people and their babies. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention notes heart-related problems (cardiovascular conditions and cardiomyopathy) are a leading cause of maternal death at 26.6 percent, and we see heart-related risks, including heart attack increase with obesity and age. Food insecurity during pregnancy is also associated with the development of health issues and other medical problems, including birth defects, postpartum depression and gestational complications. Proper prenatal care can help women have healthier deliveries and avoid the complications that can lead to a readmission to the hospital during or after pregnancy.  And after giving birth, ongoing recommended doctor visits can lessen complications and address chronic health conditions.

When it comes to helping people have healthier pregnancies, deliveries and recoveries, proper nutrition plays a significant role. A nutritious diet not only helps the health of the expectant mother, but also improves the health and development of the growing baby through providing nutrients that are critical to developing tissues, organs and systems. Following delivery, for people who are able to breastfeed, their diet and health directly affect their growing newborns, especially during an important time when the baby’s brain and immune system are developing. And women who have regular access to prenatal and postnatal care often learn more about how to care for their health and the health of their newborns, which includes learning about good nutrition, breastfeeding and options for planning their eating habits to ensure they’re getting the nutrients they need for pregnancy and early motherhood. 

Our Mom’s Meals® white paper, The Importance of Nutritional Support for Better Maternal Health discusses the U.S. health crisis in maternal mortality rates what we can do about them.

Managing chronic health issues
According to the National Library of Medicine, women who have chronic health conditions such as diabetes, chronic heart disease and hypertension can be at a higher risk of complications during pregnancy and into their first year postpartum. In many cases, if these conditions were identified early, women’s lives could be saved since they would be given steps to help manage these health issues before and during pregnancy. 

This is a time when health plans can support pregnant members. In addition to supporting medical care, managed Medicaid and fully sponsored employer plans can offer fully prepared, home-delivered meals to members expecting a baby. 

Nutritional support is particularly important for women who may be: 

  • Experiencing a high-risk pregnancy, such as those with gestational diabetes, a history of gestational diabetes, pre-existing diabetes and hypertension
  • On bed rest
  • Expecting multiples 
  • Facing food insecurity

Mom’s Meals administers maternal health meals programs across the country today, and we are happy to share results of case studies and best practices with professionals and organizations looking for ways to address the maternal health crisis in our country.

In addition to health plans, many government agencies, state and community programs and organizations, and the private sector are recognizing the importance of supporting maternal health and how access to good nutrition is essential to improving outcomes for mothers and babies. Throughout my career, I’ve seen the impact proper nutrition can have on those managing chronic conditions. Programs like Women Infants and Children (WIC), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) create a bridge connecting families and nourishing food, but support may not be wholly sufficient or fully accessible. A service of home-delivered meals ensures that pregnant people who need nutritional support conveniently receive condition-appropriate foods right in their homes.  

Making better health more accessible
With medically tailored meals that address a variety of health conditions, Mom’s Meals is part of this group of health advocates who wish to make nutrition more affordable, accessible and convenient. Fixing the maternal health crisis will take a collaborative effort, and I believe together, we can provide new and soon-to-be mothers with the resources needed to make their health and wellness a priority — impacting the health of generations to come.

Download our white paper to learn more about the importance of nutritional support for better maternal health and the programs that are helping women during and after pregnancy.