Multivitamins Improve Birth Outcomes in Developing World

Supplements reduced babies' odds for low birth weight, study found

WEDNESDAY, April 4, 2007 (HealthDay News) -- Taking daily multivitamins during pregnancy significantly reduces the likelihood that HIV-negative women in poor countries will have low birth weight babies, says a study by U.S. and Tanzanian researchers.

The finding adds to the results of a previous study that found that multivitamins reduced the risk of birth problems (including preterm birth, low birth weight and fetal death) among HIV-positive women.

The new study included 8,468 HIV-negative pregnant women in Tanzania who started taking either daily multivitamins (including vitamins B-complex, C and E) or placebo supplements beginning at 12 to 27 weeks of pregnancy and continuing until six weeks after delivery. All the women received iron and folate supplements.

Women who took the multivitamins were 18 percent less likely to have low birth weight babies and 23 percent less likely to have a babies who were small-for-gestational age than women who took the placebo.

The use of multivitamins had no significant effect on premature birth or fetal death, the study said.

The findings are in the April 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

"In light of these (latest) findings, we recommend that multivitamins be considered for all pregnant women in developing countries, regardless of their HIV status," principal investigator Wafaie Fawzi, professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard School of Public Health, said in a prepared statement.

More information

The March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation has more about vitamins and minerals during pregnancy.

SOURCE: Harvard School of Public Health, news release, April 4, 2007
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