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W.H.O. Sponsored Collaborative Studies on Nutritional Anaemia in India
1. THE EFFECTS OF SUPPLEMENTAL ORAL IRON ADMINISTRATION TO PREGNANT WOMEN

S. K. SOOD, K. RAMACHANDRAN, M. MATHUR, K. GUPTA, V. RAMALINGASWAMY, C. SWARNABAI, J. PONNIAH, V. I. MATHAN, S. J. BAKER
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/ 241-258 First published online: 1 April 1975

Abstract

A W.H.O. sponsored collaborative study of the effects of iron supplementation to pregnant women was carried out in Delhi (northern India) and Vellore (southern India). Supplementation was given under supervision from the 26th to the 36th or 38th week of pregnancy. A control group received only placebo; one group received vitamin B12 and folic acid alone;four groups received vitamin B12, folate and a daily iron supplement ranging from 30 to 240 mg of elemental iron as ferrous fumerate, and one further group received 120 mg of iron without B12 or folate. Groups receiving no iron showed a fall in mean haemoglobin concentration. Those receiving iron showed a rise in haemoglobin, the best results being in the groups receiving 120 and 240 mg of iron together with vitamin B12 and folate. Even in these groups however there was still a high prevalence of anaemia and iron deficiency at the end of the trial period. Iron alone did not produce as good results as iron plus vitamin B12 and folate. The supplementation had no detectable effect on the birth weight of the children, nor on the haemoglobin concentration of the infants at three months of age.

The daily absorption of iron in the pregnant women, as judged from the increase in haemoglobin mass, was not as satisfactory as expected. Possible reasons for this are discussed.

It is concluded that to provide these women with adequate iron a daily oral supplementation of 120 mg of elemental iron or more is needed. This can only be achieved by medicinal means. Before supplementation can be recommended on a public health scale, further information regarding the cost and expected benefits of such measures must be obtained.