Pregnant adolescents need more calories

According to the 2010 National Demography and Health Survey (ENDS, for its Spanish acronym) one of every five w...

According to the 2010 National Demography and Health Survey (ENDS, for its Spanish acronym) one of every five women between 15 and 19 years of age has been pregnant at least once. This is equal to 19% of Colombian adolescents.

These figures warn the country. Therefore several disciplines have focused on discovering the well-being of this segment of the population and their unborn children.

Ingrid Lorena Herrera, UNal nutritionist and dietician performed a research project which assessed the energy expenditure of women between 12 and 18 years of age, to determine their calorie needs.

According to literature, prenatal control in pregnant teenagers shows nutritional deficiencies and low weight at the beginning and during pregnancy.

_Pregnancy produces metabolism changes directed at guaranteeing the fetus the substances it requires for growth. The body of an adult woman responds well to these requirements, but the body of an adolescent which is still in development, does not. This may produce nutritional risks for both mother and child_, says the researcher.

Herrera says tests were performed at the calorimetry room of the UNal Medicine Faculty, where they assessed the nutritional status by means of anthropometry measurements, such as weight, arm circumference and triceps fold.

They also assessed food intake frequency and calculated idle energy expenditure with a calorimeter, an instrument that measures a considerable percentage of the daily calorie needs.

Along with the idle energy expenditure, the researcher adjusted the data according to physical activity and food thermal effect.

_We established that the total energy expenditure for pregnant adolescents was 2,698 calories. In other words, it surpasses the total required by non-pregnant women which was 2,483_, she said.

The study also revealed the food unsafety of the surveyed population. This showed consumption of inadequate foods and a low access to dairy, fruits, vegetables and water. This situation reduces the availability of essential nutrients for the mother and the fetus.

The limited access to quality food and the fact of being valued as adult women make pregnant adolescents a vulnerable group. They receive poor healthcare from the system and their nutritional needs, which are higher of what is believed, are undervalued.


The growth rate of the inhabitants of Colombia is related with the fertility rate of pregnant adolescents, which in Colombian surpasses the world rate.

In Colombia, the amount of pregnant women between 15 and 19 years of age in 2011 was 69.4 births per thousand women. This figure surpasses that world total of 52.7 per thousand women.

Agencia de Noticias UN

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