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Maternal folic acid and iron linked to improved baby survival rates

October 14, 2009

Taking vitamin B9 (folic acid) and iron supplements during pregnancy may reduce infant mortality up to age 7, new research suggests.

In the randomized controlled trial, almost 5,000 pregnant women were divided into five groups: One group received folic acid only, the second group received folic acid plus iron, the third received folic acid plus iron plus zinc, the fourth received multiple micronutrients, and the final group received vitamin A and acted as the control group (1).

Children of mothers receiving the vitamin B9 (folic acid) plus iron supplements had the lowest mortality rate of 10.3 per 1,000 child-years from birth to age 7, compared to 13.4, 12.0, 14.0, and 15.2 for the folic acid, folic acid plus iron plus zinc, multiple micronutrients, and control groups, respectively. In a setting where maternal iron deficiency and anemia are common, the researchers found a 31 percent reduction in childhood mortality due supplementation with iron-folic acid before and after birth compared to a control.

Furthermore, the supplements reduced the prevalence of low birth weight by 16 percent and the prevalence of maternal anemia during pregnancy and after the birth period by 50 percent. About 40 percent of pregnant women worldwide are estimated to be anaemic.

References

  1. Christian P. et al. Antenatal and Postnatal Iron Supplementation and Childhood Mortality in Rural Nepal: A Prospective Follow-up in a Randomized, controlled Community Trial. American Journal of Epidemiology. 2009.