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Am J Epidemiol. 2009 Nov 1;170(9):1127-36. doi: 10.1093/aje/kwp253. Epub 2009 Sep 24.

Antenatal and postnatal iron supplementation and childhood mortality in rural Nepal: a prospective follow-up in a randomized, controlled community trial.

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Department of International Health, Bloomberg School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins University, Center for Human Nutrition, Baltimore, Maryland 21205, USA.


The long-term benefits of antenatal iron supplementation in child survival are not known. In 1999-2001, 4,926 pregnant women in rural Nepal participated in a cluster-randomized, double-masked, controlled trial involving 4 alternative combinations of micronutrient supplements, each containing vitamin A. The authors examined the impact on birth weight and early infant mortality in comparison with controls, who received vitamin A only. They followed the surviving offspring of these women at approximately age 7 years to study effects of in utero supplementation on survival. Of 4,130 livebirths, 209 infants died in the first 3 months and 8 were lost to follow-up. Of those remaining, 3,761 were followed, 150 died between ages 3 months and 7 years, and 152 were lost to follow-up. Mortality rates per 1,000 child-years from birth to age 7 years differed by maternal supplementation group, as follows: folic acid, 13.4; folic acid-iron, 10.3; folic acid-iron-zinc, 12.0; multiple micronutrients; 14.0; and controls, 15.2. Hazard ratios were 0.90 (95% confidence interval (CI): 0.65, 1.22), 0.69 (95% CI: 0.49, 0.99), 0.80 (95% CI: 0.58, 1.11), and 0.93 (95% CI: 0.66, 1.31), respectively, in the 4 supplementation groups. Maternal iron-folic acid supplementation reduced mortality among these children by 31% between birth and age 7 years. These results provide additional motivation for strengthening antenatal iron-folic acid programs.

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