According to a new study, a 31% reduction in children stunted at birth was seen in women who received supplements prior to pregnancy or in the first trimester of pregnancy. Women who are not well nourished at the beginning of their pregnancy are more likely to have children considered to be small at the time of their birth. Additionally these offspring may have ongoing impaired growth in height (stunting). Consequences associated with stunting could last into adulthood and include a higher risk of early death, poor in-school performance and an increased susceptibility to disease.
Over 7,300 women, between the ages of 18 and 35, participated in this study. The study participants were not pregnant when they joined the trial but planned to conceive within the next 18 months. The women were randomly assigned to 1 of 3 groups. The first group began taking supplements at least 3 months prior to conception. The second group began taking supplements at the end of their first trimester of pregnancy. The final group did not take any supplements as a part of the trial. The supplements provided modest amounts of protein and calories, healthy fats and vitamins and minerals. Every 2 weeks a community health worker visited the participants to assess how many of the supplements they had taken.
Almost 3,100 women became pregnant during the study. Of these women approximately 2,500 women gave birth. The newborns’ measurements were taken within 2 days of birth. The women in Groups 1 and 2 were 22% less likely to have a child considered “small” for their gestational age and 31% less likely to have a child considered to be stunted at birth.
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