Taking iron daily during pregnancy is associated with a significant reduction in risk of low birth weight, say medicos in the British medical Journal.
The researchers say the effects were seen for iron doses up to 66 mg/day. The World Health Organization currently recommends a dose of 60 mg per day for pregnant women.
Other studies have suggested an association between prenatal anemia and the risk of preterm birth, but evidence on other birth outcomes is inconsistent. For this new study, the researchers analyzed statistics of prenatal iron use and prenatal anemia in nearly two million women.
They found that there was no reduction in risk of preterm birth as a result of iron use. However, they did find a significantly higher risk of low birth weight and preterm birth with anemia in the first or second trimester of pregnancy.
Further analysis indicated that for every 10 mg increase in iron dose per day (up to 66 mg per day), the risk of maternal anemia was 12 percent lower, birth weight increased by 15g and the risk of low birth weight decreased by 3 percent.
"Our findings suggest that use of iron in women during pregnancy may be used as a preventive strategy to improve maternal hematological status and birth weight," say the researchers. They call for "rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of existing antenatal care programs in high burden countries to identify gaps in policy and program implementation."
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Source: British Medical Journal