Iron supplementation during pregnancy leads to tremendous benefits for new-born children. This was the key conclusion of a randomised placebo-controlled trial that was undertaken in rural Kenya, and may be the key to improving neonatal survival in developing countries.
Antenatal iron supplementation increased birth weight by 143g. This gain in birth weight was achieved mostly through enhanced fetal weight for gestation age, but partly also because new-borns whose mothers received iron were taller. There was strong evidence that the effect of iron on birth weight depended on iron status at the start of intervention. In mothers who were initially iron deficient, iron supplementation increased birth weight by 249g.
Birth weight primary determinant of survivalThese findings are tremendously important because birth weight is the primary determinant of survival of new-born babies in the first month of life. By comparison, malaria control and smoking cessation are believed to increase birth weight by 170g and 200g, respectively.