Program considerations for integration of nutrition and family planning: Beliefs around maternal diet and breastfeeding within the context of the nutrition transition in Egypt

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Funding Sponsor

US Agency for International Development(USAID

Author's Department

Social Research Center (SRC)

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Justine A. Kavle, Sohair Mehanna, Ghada Khan, Mohamed Hassan, Gulsen Saleh, Cyril Engmann

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

John Wiley & Sons, Ltd

Publication Date

Spring 2-5-2017



In Egypt, rising maternal overweight and obesity is consistent with the transition to westernized diets and a growing reliance on energy-dense, low nutrient foods. Although the first 1,000 days of life are the focus of many programmes designed to prevent many forms of malnutrition, little attention has been paid to maternal dietary practices and weight gain during pregnancy. This study used in-depth interviews with pregnant women (N = 40), lactating women (N = 40), and nonlactating women (N = 40) to gain an understanding of behaviours, perceptions, and cultural beliefs in relation to maternal dietary intake during pregnancy, lactation, and nonlactation; weight gain during pregnancy; birth spacing; and family planning. Study findings reveal that food choice was driven by affordability, favoured foods, or foods considered appropriate for a specific life stage (pregnant, lactating, and nonlactating). Knowledge of weight gain during pregnancy is limited, especially with regards to excessive weight gain during pregnancy. Diet is often modified during lactation to support breast milk production, and a normal diet resumed when breastfeeding ceases. Within the context of breastfeeding, the lactational amenorrhea method provides an opportunity to improve exclusive breastfeeding practices, maternal diet during lactation, and the transition to other family planning methods by 6 months postpartum. Health care providers should discuss limiting maternal consumption of low nutrient foods such as junk foods, soda, and teas during pregnancy and postpartum. Dietary counselling should accompany information on appropriate weight gain during pregnancy and exercise to prevent excessive weight gain, in the context of the nutrition transition.

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