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BJOG. 2002 Jun;109(6):689-93.

Effects of vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy on maternal and child health.

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National Institute of Nutrition, Jamai Osmania, Hyderabad, India.



To examine the association between biochemical vitamin A deficiency in pregnancy and maternal and fetal health.


A cross sectional clinical study.


Antenatal clinic of nutrition unit of Niloufer Hospital catering for a low socio-economic population, and a private nursing home (Swapna nursing home) catering for a high socio-economic population.


736 pregnant women in their third trimester of pregnancy belonging to low (n = 522) and high socio-economic groups (n = 214).


All the women were subjected to a detailed clinical, anthropometric and obstetric examination. Night blindness was assessed by administering the standard WHO questionnaire. Birthweight and gestational age of the infants, maternal anaemia and development of pregnancy-induced hypertension in the mother were recorded. Haemoglobin and serum retinol were estimated at the time of recruitment to the study.


Serum retinol levels, anaemia, pregnancy-induced hypertension, birthweight and gestational age of the infant.


Night blindness was observed in 2.9% of the women and subclincal vitamin A deficiency (serum retinol <20 microg/dL with no clinical signs) in 27% of the women. Moderate to severe anaemia was observed in 41.2% of the women, and 15.8% of the women developed pregnancy-induced hypertension. Sixty-one (9.4%) women delivered preterm. Univariate analysis identified a significant association between serum retinol <20 microg/dL and preterm delivery (OR = 1.74, 95% CI 1.03-2.96), maternal anaemia (OR = 1.82, 95% CI 1.28-2.60) and pregnancy-induced hypertension (OR = 1.56, 95% CI 1.02-2.83). After adjusting for the confounding variables (body mass index, parity, age and socio-economic status) in a multivariate analysis, the significant associations between serum retinol <20 microg/dL and preterm delivery (P = 0.02) and anaemia (P = 0.003) persisted, while that for pregnancy-induced hypertension disappeared (P = 0.71).


The study suggests that subclinical vitamin A deficiency is a problem during the third trimester of pregnancy. Serum concentration of retinol <20 microg/dL appears to indicate a deficient status, and is associated with an increased risk of preterm delivery and maternal anaemia.

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