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Am J Clin Nutr. 2009 Nov;90(5):1295-302. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.2009.28350. Epub 2009 Sep 30.

Periconceptional iron supplementation does not reduce anemia or improve iron status among pregnant women in rural Bangladesh.

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  • 1Department of Nutritional Sciences, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.



There is a growing interest in periconceptional iron supplementation in developing countries by researchers and policy makers; however, there are no randomized controlled trials that examine the effectiveness of this strategy in decreasing anemia during pregnancy.


The aim was to determine whether periconceptional iron supplementation reduces anemia during pregnancy.


A randomized, double-blind, controlled trial was conducted in rural Bangladesh. Married, nulliparous women were randomly assigned to receive daily iron and folic acid (IFA; 60 mg ferrous fumarate and 400 microg folic acid) (n = 134) or folic acid (FA; 400 microg) (n = 138) in the form of a powdered supplement added to food. Women were followed until pregnancy or the end of 9 mo. Primary outcomes included hemoglobin, plasma ferritin, and plasma transferrin receptor concentrations.


Among 88 pregnant women, periconceptional IFA in comparison with FA did not affect anemia or iron status at 15 wk gestation. However, each 1% increase in adherence was associated with a 10-g/L increase in change in hemoglobin from baseline (P = 0.03), and those who initiated supplementation at a mean (+/-SD) time of 72.9 +/- 57.8 d before conception showed a 7.3-g/L increase in change in hemoglobin from baseline compared with those who initiated supplementation at 26.3 +/- 12.3 d after conception (P = 0.01). Among 146 nonpregnant women, IFA decreased anemia (odds ratio: 0.19; 95% CI: 0.04, 0.95) and improved iron stores (P = 0.001) more than did FA.


Good adherence and initiation of supplementation before conception are needed to reduce anemia during early pregnancy. This trial was registered at as NCT00953134.

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