The Maternal and Infant Health Initiative of IPRS arose
out of the recognition that every year thousands of women and child die
or are severely impacted
because they lack adequate nutrition. The importance of having
adequate caloric intake and proteins is generally recognized.
The importance of some of the vitamins and minerals has been highlighted
to the extent that many processed foods have been fortified with them to
help assure adequate intake. Such is the case for Vitamins C and D
and for the minerals Calcium and Iron. However much less attention
has been given to other essential vitamins (like Vitamin A, the B complex
including riboflavin, niacin, B12 and folic acid) and other essential
minerals such as magnesium, phosphorous and zinc. Some of these
lesser known vitamins and mineral are especially important for pregnant
or nursing women. Both the health of the mother and of the growing
infant can be seriously impacted as is detailed in other places.
One element of nutrition that
is most often over-looked is the mineral magnesium (Mg). In fact in
most cases it is not even mentioned and rarely are tests done for blood
levels of magnesium. Yet, low blood levels of magnesium ions (hypomagnesemia)
are frequently encountered in the general population and most especially
in women who have little access to good medical care and little access to
a food that provides all the vitamins and minerals that are needed for
the mother and for the normal development of the child.
The nutritional demands of the mother change during the
pregnancy. In the third trimester, there is increasing risk of high
blood pressure (hypertension). The most natural means of treating
the high blood pressure is through raising the intake of magnesium
although there are also other treatment options. It is well
established that if the blood pressure rises too much and results in
protein loss into the urine there is condition of pre-eclampsia or
toxemia. Taken to extreme there is a risk of convulsions in the
brain that can be fatal. Other reactions also accompany this
extreme and critical condition including excessive swelling of the body
(edema) and immunological reactions between mother and infant.
The concern for adequate Mg in the diet persists after
delivery of the infant since nursing mothers require additional Mg.
There is also a concern of the infant in receiving adequate nutrition.
If the mother has low levels of magnesium, it is likely that the infant
will also have low levels which can produce adverse effects on them
including wasting and stunting.
This concern for the infant begins while still in the womb.
Evidence suggests the normal development of the fetus is dependent
upon adequate mineral intake as well as critical vitamins.
It is well established an infusion of magnesium
sulfate (MgSO4) is a preferred treatment for convulsions in mothers with
eclampsia, Thus there is a precedence for use of
Mg in the extreme cases and many studies suggest there can be a great
benefit in the milder cases (pre-eclampsia).
Despite this, many
health care providers do not test for Mg levels and do not suggest that
pregnant women take mineral supplements that include Mg. In fact,
our surveys indicate that there is often little information provided to
women about nutrition in general and there is even often misinformation
about the importance of various food groups, nutritional supplements and
even one's water supply (that often provides the minerals calcium,
magnesium and even some iron).
The IPRS Initiative on Maternal and Infant Health
therefore was launched to address this urgent problem. This initiative includes:
* Advocacy to the medical community, to policy makers and
* Outreach to women and their care providers and support
groups to provide better information and guidance to minimize risks of
* Develop educational pieces for all tiers of health care
* Conduct research to develop better diagnostic tools and
advocate for their implementation into standard clinical practice.
* Clinical research is also needed to confirm the Risk
Assessment models. Agricultural research is needed to find new and better
food sources that provide high levels of essential vitamins and minerals.
Research is also urgently needed to determine genetic risk factors that
would alter our assessments of who needs to be treated and who should not
* Cross-Cultural Programs are needed to reach those who are
most at risk with economical and practical testing, risk assessment,
diagnosis and treatment options. This will need to be a
multi-language and multi-country approach to reach those most at risk.
Sharing of information is a vital part of our program.
The general public can assist by participating in surveys and providing general
feedback. There are a number of
volunteer opportunities available.
We also need financial support to maintain the growing databases, develop
computer models, conduct research and to support investigators who will mine
these databases for new insights and discovery of regulatory pathways for
An easy way to be supportive is to give a gift certificate in
someone's honor. You get a tax deductible contribution, your friend is
honored as being a supporter of Maternal/Infant wellness education and research,
and those women in need of nutritional support benefit as well. To see a
sample of the Gift Certificate, click here.
If you would like to explore other ways of being involved or
financially supportive, contact the Program
Director for further opportunities.