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Trop Doct. 2000 Apr;30(2):84-8.

The effectiveness of weekly iron supplementation in pregnant women of rural northern Malawi.

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Ekwendeni Hospital, Ekwendeni, Malawi.


A weekly iron/folate supplement was compared with a standard daily iron/folate supplement in pregnant women living in rural Malawi. Women were enrolled as they attended the local antenatal clinic, stratified by grade of anaemia and then randomized to receive either 60 mg iron/0.25 mg folate per day (n = 211) or 120 mg iron/0.50 mg folate once a week (n = 202). Supplementation was continued for a minimum of 8 weeks (10 weeks on average) and was self administered by the women at home. Initial haemoglobin values for the daily (mu = 105.7 g/l) and weekly (mu = 104.4 g/l) groups as well as final haemoglobin values (107.5 g/l and 105.6 g/l, respectively) did not differ significantly between the two groups. Haemoglobin values increased by similar levels in both groups with the subset of anaemic women increasing by an average of 6.3 g/l in the daily group (n = 70) and 5.9 g/l in the weekly group (n = 66) for all women. For compliant, anaemic women, the increases were 7.4 g/l and 6.6 g/l for the daily and weekly groups, respectively. Compliance, as indicated by self reporting and by regular counts of remaining tablets, was significantly higher in the weekly group (76% compared with 60%, P < 0.05), however compliance was identical in both groups when assessed by a stool test for elemental iron. Reported side effects were significantly reduced in the weekly group (6% compared with 17%, P < 0.05). We conclude that a weekly iron supplement given to pregnant women in rural Malawi has similar haematologic effects, and an improved side effect profile, in comparison with a standard daily supplement when administered through an existing primary healthcare programme, although both regimens are relatively unsuccessful in the reduction of anaemia prevalence during pregnancy.

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