Early food supplementation during pregnancy improves early child growth. It has a positive impact on preventing stunting during the first five years.
The burden of fetal under-nutrition is carried by developing countries across the world. The immediate survival and lifelong health of infants are adversely affected by fetal under-nutrition. Previous studies had highlighted the need for improving maternal diet through micronutrient rich foods. Nutritional status of mother is known to be an important determinant of fetal growth, size at birth, and postnatal growth. The diets of mothers in low- and middle-income countries mostly lack the necessary proportion of energy, protein, and different micronutrients. This puts the fetal health at stake.
AdvertisementThe optimal timing of food supplementation to malnourished pregnant women is unclear. Not much information is available about the possible combined effects of food and multiple micronutrient supplementations (MMS) on the growth of their offspring. A recent study done in Bangladesh evaluated the effects of prenatal food and micronutrient interventions on postnatal child growth.
The diet in rural Bangladesh is usually monotonous and lacks sufficient energy calories. Rice is the staple food. It is usually eaten with green-leafy vegetables and sometimes a small amount of fish. Meat and animal products appear to be rare ingredients of the diet.
Routine antenatal care involves iron and folic acid supplementation to women during pregnancy, as recommended by the World Health Organization (WHO). The new study assessed the effect of multiple-micronutrient supplementation (MMS) containing 15 different vitamins and minerals with iron and folic acid supplementation.
Children born to mothers receiving an early food supplementation during pregnancy showed better growth. They were less likely to be stunted during the first five years of life. This positive impact on preventing stunting was observed only in boys.
Researchers observed that multiple-micronutrient supplements produced no significant added benefit over iron and folic acid supplementation for post-natal growth. Prenatal MMS increased the proportion of stunting in boys. The findings suggest that food supplementation in pregnancy has programming effects in early fetal life.
Children born to mothers who received multiple micronutrients rather than the standard iron-folate program had a higher occurrence of stunting during the first five years. The finding implicates that it is better to adhere to the standard iron-folate program.
To conclude, antenatal care requires far more attention laying more stress on nutrition of expecting mothers. Early initiation of food supplementation during pregnancy reduces the occurrence of stunting during 0-54 months in boys, but not in girls. Multiple-micronutrient supplements were found to increase the proportion of stunting in boys when given prenatally.
Reference: Effects of prenatal food and micronutrient supplementation on child growth from birth to 54 months of age: a randomized trial in Bangladesh; Nutrition Journal 2011, 10:134doi:10.1186/1475-2891-10-134