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Poor maternal health care and birth defects in Nigeria

In Nigeria, lack of maternal health care, poor nutrition and exposure to environmental toxins have led to high rates of birth defects, with lasting consequences for affected children and their families. Nigeria has a high rate of birth defects, a symptom of underlying systemic problems, including poverty, inadequate health care and environmental pollution. Without addressing these issues, the rate of birth defects is unlikely to improve.

According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of birth defects in Nigeria is estimated to be between 12 and 20 per 1,000 live births. States with the highest rates of birth defects include Kano, Lagos and Rivers. These states also have some of the highest rates of poverty and malnutrition in the country. There are many potential causes of birth defects in Nigeria. One of the main factors is poverty, which can lead to poor nutrition and inadequate prenatal care. Other factors include exposure to environmental toxins such as lead, mercury, and pesticides. In addition, genetic mutations can cause birth defects, and some ethnic groups in Nigeria may be more susceptible to certain genetic conditions. There is also evidence that certain infectious diseases can increase the risk of birth defects.

Children born with birth defects in Nigeria face many challenges. Many may experience physical and mental disabilities, such as intellectual disabilities, learning disabilities and communication difficulties. Children with birth defects may also face social and economic challenges, as they may not be able to find work or participate fully in society. Furthermore, some families may experience social stigma and discrimination because of their child’s condition. Poverty is one of the major risk factors for birth defects in Nigeria. Poverty can lead to malnutrition and lack of access to medical care, both of which can increase the risk of birth defects.

In general, access to nutritious food and exercise opportunities can be a challenge for pregnant women in Nigeria. According to a study published in the Journal of Public Health, more than 40% of women in Nigeria do not meet the recommended dietary allowances of key nutrients during pregnancy, including iron, folic acid and calcium. In addition, many women do not have access to appropriate exercise facilities or safe areas to exercise.

Hard work and skipping antenatal care effectively contribute to the risk of birth defects. It is true that strenuous physical work during pregnancy can increase the risk of birth defects, and regular antenatal care is important to reduce the risk of birth defects. Antenatal care provides opportunities to detect and manage any conditions that could cause birth defects, such as infections or nutritional deficiencies. Some foods eaten by pregnant women can increase the risk of birth defects. For example, fish high in mercury, such as swordfish and others, should be avoided during pregnancy because they can cause brain and nervous system damage in developing babies. Alcohol and caffeine should also be avoided, as they are associated with an increased risk of birth defects. In addition, it is important that pregnant women get enough nutrients such as folic acid and iron, as a lack of these nutrients can increase the risk of birth defects.

To prevent birth defects, pregnant women should eat a variety of healthy foods, including; fruits and vegetables, especially those high in folate, such as spinach, asparagus and broccoli, whole grains, such as whole wheat bread and brown rice, lean proteins, such as chicken, fish and eggs, low-fat dairy products, such as milk, yogurt and cheese, healthy fats, such as avocados, nuts and olive oil. Pregnant women should also limit their intake of processed foods, sugar and saturated fat. In addition to avoiding excesses, pregnant women should take care to get enough rest and exercise. Exercising during pregnancy can help reduce the risk of birth defects while also improving overall health. It is recommended that pregnant women do at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day, such as walking or swimming. In addition to exercise, it is important for pregnant women to sleep 7-9 hours a day.

A potential solution to improving nutrition and exercise during pregnancy in Nigeria is to increase access to affordable and nutritious food options. This can be done through programs such as food stamps or subsidized produce markets. Moreover, providing safe places to exercise, such as community parks or walking trails, could help more women get the recommended amount of exercise during pregnancy. These solutions would require government support and investment, but could have a significant impact on improving the health of pregnant women and their babies.

Fadeela Mustapha Lawan,

Department of Mass Communication, Borno State University,


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