Benefits of Iron Supplementation During Pregnancy Outweighed Malaria Risks

Dr. Martin N. Mwangi Researcher Division of Human Nutrition, Nutrition and Health over the lifecourse International Nutrition Unit Wageningen University The Netherlands


MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Martin N. Mwangi
Researcher
Division of Human Nutrition,
Nutrition and Health over the lifecourse
International Nutrition Unit
Wageningen University
The Netherlands

 

Medical Research: What is the background for this study?

Dr. Mwangi : Anemia in pregnancy is a moderate or severe health problem in more than 80 percent of countries worldwide, but particularly in Africa, where it affects 57 percent of pregnant women. Iron deficiency is the most common cause, but iron supplementation during pregnancy has uncertain health benefits. There is some evidence to suggest that iron supplementation may increase the risk of infectious diseases, including malaria.

Our main objective was to measure the effect of antenatal iron supplementation on maternal Plasmodium infection risk, maternal iron status, and neonatal outcomes. We randomly assigned 470 pregnant Kenyan women living in a malaria endemic area to daily supplementation with 60 mg of iron (n = 237 women) or placebo (n = 233) until 1 month postpartum. All women received 5.7 mg iron/day through flour fortification during intervention and usual intermittent preventive treatment against malaria.

Medical Research: What are the main findings?

Dr. Mwangi : Overall, we found no effect of daily iron supplementation during pregnancy on risk of maternal Plasmodium infection. Iron supplementation resulted in an increased birth weight [5.3 ounces], gestational duration, and neonatal length; enhanced maternal and infant iron stores at 1 month after birth; and a decreased risk of low birth weight (by 58 percent) and prematurity. The effect on birth weight was influenced by initial maternal iron status. Correction of maternal iron deficiency led to an increase in birth weight by [8.4 ounces].

Medical Research: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Mwangi : Overall, we found no effect of daily iron supplementation during pregnancy on risk of maternal Plasmodium infection. Iron supplementation resulted in an increased birth weight [5.3 ounces], gestational duration, and neonatal length; enhanced maternal and infant iron stores at 1 month after birth; and a decreased risk of low birth weight (by 58 percent) and prematurity. The effect on birth weight was influenced by initial maternal iron status. Correction of maternal iron deficiency led to an increase in birth weight by [8.4 ounces].

Based on our results, we believe that the benefits of universal antenatal iron supplementation outweigh possible risks.

Medical Research: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Mwangi : Folic acid is almost always given with iron. For future research, we would recommend in-depth studies to investigate the safety of antenatal folic acid supplementation with or without iron.

Citation:

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Dr. Martin N. Mwangi (2015). Benefits of Iron Supplementation During Pregnancy Outweighed Malaria Risks 

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