e-Library of Evidence for Nutrition Actions (eLENA)

Nutrition counselling during pregnancy

Maintaining good nutrition and a healthy diet during pregnancy is critical for the health of the mother and unborn child. Nutrition education and counselling is a widely used strategy to improve the nutritional status of women during pregnancy. The strategy focuses primarily on:

  • promoting a healthy diet by increasing the diversity and amount of foods consumed
  • promoting adequate weight gain through sufficient and balanced protein and energy intake
  • promoting consistent and continued use of micronutrient supplements, food supplements or fortified foods.

Available evidence suggests that nutrition education and counselling may support optimal gestational weight gain (i.e. neither insufficient nor excessive), reduce the risk of anaemia in late pregnancy, increase birth weight, and lower the risk of preterm delivery. Counselling may be more effective in undernourished populations when women are also provided with nutrition support such as food or micronutrient supplements where needed.

WHO recommendations

Counselling about healthy eating* and keeping physically active during pregnancy is recommended for pregnant women to stay healthy and to prevent excessive weight gain during pregnancy.

In undernourished populations, nutrition education on increasing daily energy and protein intake is recommended for pregnant women to reduce the risk of low birth weight neonates.

* A healthy diet during pregnancy contains adequate energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, obtained through the consumption of a variety of foods, including green and orange vegetables, meat, fish, beans, nuts, pasteurized dairy products and fruit.

WHO documents

WHO documents

GRC-approved guidelines


Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
Related systematic reviews
Clinical trials

Last update:

5 October 2017 10:46 CEST

Category 1 intervention

Guidelines have been recently approved by the WHO Guidelines Review Committee

Global targets

Implementation of this intervention may contribute to the achievement of the following targets:

Global nutrition targets

Target 1: 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted

Target 2: 50% reduction of anaemia in women of reproductive age

Target 3: 30% reduction in low birth weight

Target 6: Reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%