Giving undernourished women multivitamins during pregnancy increases the newborns' birthweight, found a study done at the University College of Medicals Sciences and Guru Teg Bahadur Hospital in New Delhi.
Babies born to mothers on multivitamins are also less likely to die in the first week of life, reports the study in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, a publication of Journal of American Medical Association.
The study found that taking vitamin and mineral supplement by pregnant women is far more effective in increasing birth weight and lowering infant death than just relying on iron and folic acid supplements. Anaemia and multivitamin and minerals deficiency — including vitamins C and E, vitamin B complex and folate — effects over 50 per cent pregnant women in India. Low birth weight — weight of less than 2.5 kg — is a leading cause of death in newborns. It also increases the risk of newborn developing coronary heart disease, diabetes, stroke or high blood pressure in adulthood.
Piyush Gupta, reader in the department of pediatrics at the University College of Medical Sciences, Delhi, and colleagues did the study involving 200 women who were 24 to 32 weeks pregnant. All the women in the study were either underweight or had low haemoglobin, which indicates malnourishment.
On an average, women in the micronutrient group gained 9.2 kg during their pregnancies, compared with 8.7 kg in the placebo group. After the researchers adjusted for other factors that affect birth weight, babies whose mothers took micronutrients weighed 98 grams more than the placebo group. Rate of low birth weight was 43.1 per cent in the placebo group versus 15.2 percent in the micronutrient supplements group.