It has been recognized that maternal malnutrition during pregnancy may result in adequate growth in the fetus. For instance, we will examine the effect that it has on brain growth; if a fetus does not receive enough nourishment, the rate of brain cell division is seriously hampered. An extremely deprived fetus may have 20% fewer brain cell than normal. If an infant has been malnourished both in utero and infancy, it is tragic because the brain may be as much as 60% smaller than that of the normal child.
There have been many studies which demonstrate the results of poor maternal nutrition during pregnancy and its effect on both fetus and mother. One such study conducted in 1942 by Ebbs, Tisdall and Scott
demonstrated some serious consequences. They examined 210 expectant mothers, all of whom had eaten poorly during the first four or five months of pregnancy. The investigators divided the population into two samples, one of 90 (experimental) and the other of 120 (control). The ninety mothers were given vitamins to supplement their diets so as to make them adequate; this was done during the last part of their pregnancy and for five weeks after the babies were born. The larger sample continued on an inadequate diet for the same period of time. The mothers whose diets were supplemented were in much better health, had less toxemia, less anemia, fewer spontaneous abortions, and fewer still births, fewer short gestation-period babies and fewer low-weight babies. Along with all of these benefits the well-fed mothers averaged 5 hours less in labor. The babies delivered by the nourished mothers were in better physical condition at birth, healthier during the first six months of life, experienced fewer serious diseases, fewer colds, and other minor illnesses.