Nubile women have higher nutritional needs than adult men. One reason is that the flow of blood during menstruation regularly leads to a loss of iron and other nutrients, which makes women more prone to anemia (see Chapter 13). In addition, in many developing countries women work much more than men. In rural areas, they often perform agricultural tasks; in urban areas, they work long hours at the factory or elsewhere. And when they come back from the field or the factory, they still have to work at home, prepare the meal and take care of the children. It is often the woman’s heavy task of collecting wood and water. All this work increases the energy and nutritional needs of women.

The nutritional status of women before, during and after pregnancy has a lot to do with their general well-being, but also with that of their children and other family members. Maternal nutrition focuses its activities on women as mothers. She is interested in their nutritional status mainly because it depends on the well-being of the children they give birth to and their ability to breastfeed, feed and raise them. The health and well-being of the woman herself is a relatively neglected aspect. The field of maternal and child health has mainly focused on the child and on the means of providing services to mothers with the sole aim of achieving successful pregnancies and breastfeeding. But it is still in the interest of the child rather than that of the mother. A poor diet and poor health are factors that compromise the effectiveness of the dual role of women: they are mothers and they work. This affects not only their own well-being, but that of the whole family. Excessive workload can push an undernourished woman into a state of malnutrition.

A poor diet, acute and frequent chronic infections, repeated pregnancies, prolonged breastfeeding and too heavy a workload are all factors that promote physiological impairment and sometimes lead to an obvious state of malnutrition. It has been called “maternal impairment syndrome”. In many countries, young women under the age of 20 are vigorous, happy, attractive and healthy. From 10 to 15 years later, in their thirties, they are prematurely aged, tired, weak and sickly. Too often young women get pregnant before they reach the age of 20. Figure 3 shows a woman’s pregnancy and lactation months in Kenya. This case may not be entirely representative of African women, but it is not atypical. From 18, the age of first pregnancy, to 43, she will have been pregnant for almost 7 years over a period of 25 years, or 27.7 percent of the time; breastfeeding, for more than 16 years, 65 percent of the time; neither pregnant nor breastfeeding for less than 2 years, 7 percent of the time. She will hardly have had a period during these 25 years.


During pregnancy, the nutritional needs of women are even greater than at any other time. Its diet must provide all the elements necessary for the development of the fertilized ovum into a viable fetus for it to become a baby (see Table 4). At the same time as feeding, the woman also feeds the fetus, as well as the placenta to which the fetus in the uterus is connected by the umbilical cord. The breasts are also preparing to make milk.

During the first half of pregnancy, the mother has to eat more because of the needs of the uterus, breasts and blood – which have increased in size or quantity – but also because of the growing placenta. This is also the case in the second half of pregnancy. But during the last trimester, the rapid growth of the fetus requires even more nutrients, especially since it must accumulate nutrient reserves, especially vitamin A, iron and other micronutrients, and energy reserves of fat. An adequate diet during pregnancy allows the mother to gain physiologically desirable weight and to ensure normal birth weight for the newborn.

A healthy woman gains weight during pregnancy if she is not overworked. Just as a strong person needs more energy than a thinner person to do the same amount of work, a pregnant woman needs more energy. In industrialized countries, women have an easier life during pregnancy. They often rest and thus reduce their energy needs. But almost everywhere in Africa and elsewhere, pregnant women remain active, even during the last months of pregnancy (photo 4). Basal metabolism generally increases during pregnancy, also resulting in increased energy requirements. Thus, most women need more energy when they are pregnant, even if they are not overworked. For the overworked woman in developing countries, who is barely resting and has little to eat, weight loss is a real and dangerous prospect.

There is no denying that abortions, miscarriages and stillbirths are more common in undernourished women. Nutritional deficiencies also likely increase the risk of fetal malformation. Severe malnutrition decreases fertility and therefore the probability of conception. A woman with severe malnutrition stops menstruating. It is clear that this is a natural way to stop the loss of nutrients through the menstrual flow and protect the woman from the rigors of pregnancy and childbirth. However, women with less severe malnutrition have not been shown to be less fertile, and women in Asia and parts of Africa are mostly moderately malnourished.

The baby’s weight at birth depends on maternal nutrition. Children born to malnourished mothers are small, and even a slight increase in energy intake during pregnancy tends to increase the baby’s birth weight.

In many developing countries, 50 to 75 percent of pregnant women suffer from anemia (see Chapter 13), which is often responsible for the high rate of maternal mortality.

A pregnant woman should go to a clinic at regular intervals for prenatal checkups, which should include checking hemoglobin levels. She should receive practical advice on her diet, taking into account locally available food and the means at her disposal. Many countries recognize that pregnant women should be advised to take medical supplements of iron and sometimes iron and folate.

Safety contribution of certain nutrients for the active woman of childbearing age

Condition Weight Energy Protein Fer

Vitamin A

Vitamin C






(µg rétinol)



Neither pregnant
neither breastfeeding

2 210



500 30 170
Pregnant 55

2 410



600 30 420

2 710



850 30 270


Source: FAO

Vitamins in camel milk essential for pregnant women

Vitamin B3 (Niacin)

Niacin, also named nicotinic acid or vitamin PP, plays a pivotal role in the metabolism of all nutrients (fat, carbohydrate and protein) and DNA synthesis as a precursor of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). Niacin deficiency provokes pellagra, a severe skin disease.


Vitamin B5 (Panthotenic acid)

Panthotenic acid is involved in the coenzyme-A (CoA) synthesis which plays a pivotal role in animal metabolism of nutrients proteins, carbohydrates and fats) as acetyl-CoA.


Camel milk is rich source of various minerals like Na, K,Ca, P Mg Fe, Zn, Cu are present in camel milk (Onjoro et al., 2003). The mean values for zinc, manganese, magnesium, iron, sodium, potassium and calcium in mineral contents of dromedary camel
milk (100g-1) are 0.53, 0.05, 10.5, 0.29, 59, 156 and 114 mg respectively


Vitamin A (retinol)

Vitamin A (or retinol) is involved in the protection of the tegument and in the vision. In consequence, hypovitaminose A could affect the skin provoking hyperkeratosis and the vision provoking a specific crepuscular blindness. Vitamin A plays also an important role in the protection of mucosa, which would explain its specific role in reproductive performances (Clagett-Dame and Knutson, 2011), but in our knowledge, no data regarding this role are available for camels


Vitamins of camel milk: a comprehensive review
Bernard Faye  , Gaukhar Konuspayeva  , Mohammed Bengoumi