According to UNICEF’s 2015 data, about 14.6% babies of babies around the world weigh under 2.5 kg at birth.
Low birthweight is associated with a higher chance of death during the first month of life. It also poses a greater risk of lower IQ and stunted growth.
Additionally, babies with very low birthweight are more prone to developing chronic conditions (e.g., obesity, diabetes, etc.) in adulthood.
A recent observational cohort study, the largest of its kind so far, shed light on factors contributing to reduced complications at birth, including low birthweight.
It implied introducing low-cost supplementation during pregnancy may improve birth outcomes. The study particularly highlighted the effects of products containing multiple micronutrients.
The study followed 96,341 Botswanian women between 2014 and 2020, comparing their supplementation strategies with birth outcomes. As many as 22.5% of women had HIV.
The different supplementation strategies included:
- Taking folic acid supplements only
- Taking iron supplements only
- Taking the WHO-recommended combination of folic acid and iron (IFAS)
- Taking multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS)
MMS referred to the products containing iron, standard doses of vitamins A, B1, B2, B3, B6, B12, folic acid, copper, selenium, iodine, and zinc.
The research team discovered that supplementing only with iron or folic acid resulted in more complications than supplementing with IFAS.
The complications included:
- A higher chance of preterm and very preterm birth
- Low and very low birthweight
- Neonatal death
MMS performed even better than IFAS in improving birth outcomes. Taking MMS resulted in substantially smaller chances of preterm births and low birthweight.
Additionally, the study found that MMS prenatal supplementation may be particularly effective in improving birth outcomes in pregnant women with HIV and women older than 35.
Though more research is necessary for WHO to start recommending this type of prenatal supplementation, this study is an excellent first step toward it.