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Famine, Maternal Nutrition and Infant Mortality: A Re-Examination of the Dutch Hunger Winter

Nicky Hart
Population Studies
Vol. 47, No. 1 (Mar., 1993), pp. 27-46
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2175224
Page Count: 20
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Famine, Maternal Nutrition and Infant Mortality: A Re-Examination of the Dutch Hunger Winter
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Abstract

During the Dutch Hunger Winter (1945), a unique, documented example of mass famine in an industrialized population, total reproductive loss (fetal and infant mortality) among most exposed mothers remained relatively low. This is explained by highly favourable fetal mortality and unfavourable infant mortality. The author traces the pattern of low fetal mortality to the higher levels of `embodied health status' of famine mothers. The high infant mortality of the famine area testifies to the severity of the food and fuel shortage, yet another factor held down the rate of stillbirth. This other factor, it is argued, has a socio-economic character, it is the intrinsic `embodied' nutritional status of the regional population, arising from favourable opportunities for growth and development among successive generations of mothers. This explanation highlights the importance of maternal vitality, (a synthetic, historically variable and culturally determined phenomenon) as a neglected feature of historical demography.

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