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viernes, 20 de mayo 2022
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UdeA Research Points Out Challenges in Nutrition of Adolescent Pregnant Women

By: Julián David Ospina Sánchez - Journalist 

Pregnancy in women under 19 years of age is one of the most relevant public health problems worldwide. Udea’s School of Nutrition and Dietetics, with experts and entities from nine countries, led the research "Curves for monitoring weight gain in Latin American adolescent pregnant women" to reduce the risks to women's health and promote proper fetal development. 

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The effects of malnutrition on teenage pregnancy can transcend generations, according to WHO. Photo: Unsplash. 

In 2021, 18.3% of live births in Colombia were to mothers between 10 and 19 years of age: more than 92,000 cases, according to the National Administrative Department of Statistics (DANE). In addition, data from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reveal that, in Latin America and the Caribbean, 15% of pregnancies occur in children under 15 years of age. 

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), adolescent pregnancy represents a serious global problem that translates into risks for mothers such as impaired growth, anemia, hemorrhage, high blood pressure and complications during childbirth. Additionally, an underweight or overweight newborn is more likely to develop obesity, hypertension, diabetes, metabolic syndrome and certain types of cancer that will limit their opportunities for education and work. Thus, the intergenerational cycle of disease and poverty is perpetuated. 

For these reasons, the Food and Human Nutrition Group (GIANH), which belongs to Universidad de Antioquia’s School of Nutrition and Dietetics, together with researchers and representatives of health institutions in Colombia, Brazil, Uruguay, Panama, Chile, Argentina, Paraguay, Mexico and Peru, led the research "Curves for monitoring weight gain in Latin American adolescent pregnant women". It was based on the fact that women's weight gain should be adjusted to the body mass index at the beginning of their pregnancy to avoid complications and promote fetal development. 

"Scientific evidence shows that weight gain of adolescent women during pregnancy can condition their own growth and development of the fetus. Precisely in the case of the fetus, adequate weight gain favors the process of cell formation, organ size and brain development", explained the leader of the research group, Sandra Lucía Restrepo Mesa. 

National and international protocols for the care of pregnant women establish weight gain curves as ideal statistical tools for monitoring this factor during pregnancy, although, until now, they only existed for adult women, which made decision-making imprecise for adolescents, said Restrepo Mesa. 

DANE figures 

According to the latest DANE technical bulletin of vital statistics, births to teenage mothers between the ages of 15 and 19 years had a slight reduction between 2020 and 2021 from 90,634 to 88,217 respectively. 

However, when comparing the year 2021 with 2020, an increase of 10.6% in the number of births to girls between 10 and 14 years of age is observed. They went from 3,511 to 3,884 cases. 

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Description automatically generatedFor the researchers, the healthcare system is not prepared to adequately care for the adolescent mother/child pair. Photo: Unsplash. 

Research Findings 

The first finding of the research has to do with demanding that the health systems of the region improve data collection since, out of 150,000 records, only 6,414 had the information required for the study.  

Concerning the curves, according to lead researcher Sandra Restrepo, these weight gain graphs will be published in the coming months to work with Latin American pregnant adolescents. "A curve was elaborated for each pregestational body mass index as follows: thinness, adequate weight, overweight and obesity", she noted. 

In addition, the research suggests using the curves in prenatal care to prevent alterations in the health and nutritional status of adolescents, reduce competition for nutrients between the mother and the fetus, favor adequate weight gain in pregnant women and reduce the birth of children with inadequate weight.  

Now, the great challenge, said Restrepo Mesa, is to socialize the results with national and international decision-makers so that they understand the need to implement these tools that favor the health of the mother-child pair. 

Research Group 

Professor Sandra Lucía Restrepo Mesa was joined by the researchers from Universidad de Antioquia María Victoria Benjumea, Cristian Santa Escobar, Josué Santiago Cano and Alejandro Estrada Restrepo. 

Co-researchers included Gilberto Kac and Thaís Rangel from Brazil, María Cecilia Severi from Uruguay, Odalis Sinisterra from Panama, Marcela Agustina Araya and Eduardo Atalah from Chile, and Carlos Grandi from Argentina. María del Carmen Zimmer from Argentina, Gabriela Chico from Mexico, Nélida Pinto from Peru and María Isabel López Campos from Paraguay also contributed data. 

To finance the project, the university joined forces with Fundación Éxito. 

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