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Pregnant Women blamed over nutrition - regardless of context

Pregnancy Malnutrition in Aotearoa continues to be treated as a Self-Responsibility Behaviour-Deficit … regardless of Context

Latest research analysis shows expectant NZ women struggling to achieve optimal nutritional intake as recommended by our MoH. Maternity health professionals are increasingly voicing frustration at being the “ambulance at the bottom of the cliff” when clearly our Education on choice-based rhetoric is proving inadequate.

Self-employed Dannevirke Midwife Briony Raven, and Doctor of Nursing from Massey University Dr Rochelle Stewart-Withers, have completed a CDA (critical discourse analysis) around the concept of food security, to understand pregnant women’s nutrition in NZ.

Their research conclusion summarizes “The most dominant discourse is one whereby malnutrition is seen as deficit behavior and thinking by women, and one of self-responsibility, regardless of [poverty] context. This is very much in keeping with the modus operandi of public health and neo-liberal discourse.”

Raven and Stewart-Withers continue “We argue, however, this renders silent the fact that malnutrition for some women results more from food insecurity and disempowerment.” They advise Midwives need to make audible other less dominant narratives, alongside avocation for woman-centred, policy-based approaches towards nutrition.

Three key messages were identified:
·        Pregnant women, when not viewed holistically/relationally, are isolated as being solely responsible for their nutrition
·        Women are viewed as naïve recipients who need to achieve a healthy pregnancy through education and compliance to adhere to complex food guidelines
·        There is an authoritarian-use of ‘fear’ and monitoring that attempts to motivate adherence to guidelines
Local Midwife Kathy Fray who has been NZ’s No.1 best-selling birth-babies-motherhood Author for the past a 1½ decades, responds “I agree with the research conclusion that pregnant kiwi Women are in general held personally accountable to attain oftentimes complex societal/MoH nutritional targets – which for many can be both unrealistic and unaffordable. A good quality Daily Prenatal multi-vitamin multi-mineral costs about $1 a day, and not every woman can afford even that.”

Fray continues “The pressure on pregnant women to confirm these days – to sooooo many things – can create undesirably-high levels of stressful anxiety. Fifty years ago, pregnant women just ‘got on with it’ but today they feel continuously interrogated with a ‘Are you doing everything correctly?’ undertone. A simple solution would be our government funding a daily Preggy Multi that includes the recommended levels of Folic Acid and Iodine, instead of the current policy that Pharmac supplies separate Folic Acid tablets, and Iodine tablets – but no other general Minerals or Vitamins for maternal-fetal wellness”.

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