Primary Prevention of Growth Delays Retardations in Unborn Children in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

Primary Prevention of Growth Delays Retardations in Unborn Children in Low- and Middle-Income Countries

About one in five babies, which are born too small, dies in the first months of life. In addition, infants who have growth retardations develop infections, respiratory problems and jaundice (icterus) much more frequently than normally grown babies. Later in life, these children are more likely to suffer from metabolic disorders, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes. Most growth retarded children are born in low- and middle-income countries. In 2012 approximately 23.3 million children were affected, according to analyzes from the CHERG data pool, the Child Health Epidemiology Reference Group, which consists of 14 cohorts of different populations from low- and middle-income countries (1). This problem particularly concerns South Asia where roughly one in three babies is affected, which is more than twice as many as in sub-Saharan Africa (2)[1].

One in five infants in Côte d’Ivoire, one in six in Uganda and one in seven in Zambia are born to small. Growth retardation of the fetus in the womb set in relation to the pregnancy duration is a warning sign for childhood stunting and other diseases. The growth of the fetus can be measured during pregnancy by the crown-to-rump-length, which is usually determined by ultrasound. As healthy fetuses grow almost equally fast in the first trimester of pregnancy, serious delays become apparent early on. Experts recommend giving greater attention to the growth of unborn babies in order to avoid developmental disabilities and early death of newborns through primary prevention. In addition to infections as well as other diseases and environmental pollution, nutritional deficiencies particularly belong to the influenceable risk factors in pregnancy, in order to enable children to develop normally.

For example, a mothers deficiency of folic acid at the time of conception can lead to neural tube defects of the child, such as spina bifida (cleft spine). The most common micronutrient deficiency is the deficiency of iron, which affects about a quarter of all women and children worldwide and is the main cause of anemia. More than 38 % of pregnant women (32 million) and 43 % of children (273 million) suffer from anemia worldwide (3). Micronutrient deficiency is a global problem that urgently requires complex solutions. Students4Kids makes its contribution by raising awareness about hidden hunger and its consequences. The student competitions aim to sustainably improve the nutritional situation of affected people, through targeted projects in selected regions in Sub-Saharan Africa.

[1] SGA = Small for Gestational Age, newborns that are smaller than 90 % of all other children born in the same week of pregnancy
LBW = Low Birth Weight (< 2500 g)

Read and see more:
(1) ACC Lee et al. (2017) Estimates of burden and consequences of infants born small for gestational age in low and middle income countries with INTERGROWTH-21st standard: analysis of CHERG datasets. BMJ 358:j3677 , available via:
(2) Cf. Figure 3, ibidem.
(3) WHO 2015. The global prevalence of anaemia in 2011, available via:




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