Sam Burcher dot com

Sam Burcher, news views and bits inbetween......
Total Site Hits

Teenage mums especially need a healthy diet.

eatingfortwoUK teenage pregnancy rates are the highest in Western Europe. Over 56,000 babies are born to teenage mothers annually, double the number in Germany, three times that in France and six times that in the Netherlands. Young, pregnant women also tend to have diets that are nutritionally deficient for them as well as their unborn babies.

The Maternity Alliance and The Food Commission interviewed 46 under 18-year-olds about their diet for a report on teenage pregnancy. They found that young women faced huge obstacles in obtaining an adequate diet, especially when living away from home.

Nutritional samples taken from a number of participants in the study showed that their food intake did not even match their energy requirements. The standard fare consisted of high levels of saturated fats and salt from crisps, bagged snacks, along with high levels of sugar from breakfast cereals and carbonated drinks. Fruit and vegetables were crucially lacking from their daily diet, resulting in a deficiency of vitamin A, C, magnesium and zinc.

All the women interviewed said their diet had improved since becoming pregnant, but felt that fresh foods were beyond their budget. Average weekly expenditure for food in the under 18 group was less than £20.25. With under £3 a day to spend on food, there is a tendency to “fill up on bread, crisp or chocolate because it's cheap.” Consequently, babies born to teenage mothers are more likely to suffer ill health than those born to older women.

Good nutrition during pregnancy is essential to the health of mother and child. This is especially relevant to teenage mums as their bodies are still developing. If they lack the sufficient nutrients to nourish a growing foetus, then their own nutrient reserves will be depleted. This affects not only the mothers' health, but increases the risk of stunted growth and possible onset of diabetes and heart disease for the child in adulthood.

Evidence has been accumulating that the nutritional status of mothers has long-term health impacts on their offspring, affecting their propensity to suffer from chronic diseases in adulthood. This will store up still more trouble for public health in future.

The Maternity Alliance and the Food Commission Report calls for the improvement of nutrition in pregnancy, not least, the provision of welfare benefits before 29 weeks for teenage pregnant mums.


  1. Good Enough To Eat: The Diet of Pregnant Teenagers. The Maternity Alliance and The Food Commission.
  2. Burchett. H. Seeley. A. Eating Badly for Two. Healthmatters , Issue 52, p12-13, Summer 2003.
  3. Allison R. Hall. S. Battle to Cut Teenage Pregnancy. The Guardian February 22 nd 2001.