What is it about?

There is an expectation that all midwives across the world can deliver healthy eating messages to pregnant women as part of their antenatal care. There is a shortage of midwives in Brazil with only one training course for a population of over 200 million people. However, midwives in Brazil are taught much more about nutrition compared to midwives in the UK. The nutrition content of their programme is decided and delivered by a registered nutritionist. As a result of this, midwives are much better prepared to support pregnant women about nutrition and healthy eating. They also monitor weight gain during pregnancy and are confident to intervene and offer advice if weight gain is inadequate or excessive. In the UK, midwives are taught very little about nutrition and have reported that they do not feel confident having conversations with women about healthy eating, especially if women are living with obesity.

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Why is it important?

Good nutrition during the first 1000 days of life (from conception to the child's second birthday) is the most important time for influencing health and development for the rest of an individual's life. An harm caused by poor nutrition during this period may also last a lifetime. Poor diet during pregnancy is also linked to health problems in offspring in later life, such obesity, type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and stroke. It is very important that pregnant women are advised and supported to have a healthy diet and healthy weight gain during pregnancy. Midwives are ideal for this important role, as they are trusted and have frequent contact with women throughout their pregnancy. However, in the UK midwives receive very little training about nutrition. They report that they do not feel confident advising women about diet and weight during pregnancy, especially if women are living with obesity. Whereas women are often highly motivated during pregnancy and actively seek out information about health. They have reported disappointment about the advice they receive from midwives saying that it lacked depth and failed to meet their needs.


In Brazil, nutrition has a greater priority and midwives are taught much more about nutrition during their training, by a nutritionist. As a result midwives in Brazil are better prepared to support pregnant women regarding healthy eating and healthy weight gain, compared to UK midwives. Providers of midwifery education in the UK could learn a lot from the Brazilian approach to nutrition education and this would empower midwives to offer more effective support to pregnant women in the UK regarding diet and weight.

Julie Abayomi
Edge Hill University

In Brazil, access to nutritionists through the Unified Health System is still very limited. Therefore, training midwives with the competence to perform nutritional guidance is a huge gain for women's health.

Anna Azevedo-Martins
University of São Paulo

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: The importance of good nutrition during pregnancy: a comparison between the UK and Brazil, British Journal of Midwifery, October 2022, Mark Allen Group, DOI: 10.12968/bjom.2022.30.10.582.
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