Daily iron supplementation during pregnancy does not result in increased risk of malaria – Study says

Iron SupplementA study published September 8th, 2015 in JAMA – Journal of the American Medical Association, has established that daily iron supplementation during pregnancy did not result in an increased risk of malaria. The study done in Kenya noted that Anemia in pregnancy is a moderate or severe health problem in more than 80 percent of countries worldwide, but particularly in Africa, where it affects 57 percent of pregnant women; Iron deficiency is the most common cause, but iron supplementation during pregnancy has uncertain health benefits.

Some evidence has been debated in the past stating that iron supplementation may increase the risk of infectious diseases, including malaria. One article in the Journal of Nutrition stated that 5 of 9 studies showed oral iron has been associated with increased rates of clinical malaria and 4 of 8 studies  showed increased morbidity from other infectious diseases. These statistics cause great worry for mothers-to-be in malaria-endemic regions because they must wonder if the benefits of iron supplementation outweigh the risks.

Martin N. Mwangi, Ph.D., of Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands, and his team randomly assigned 470 pregnant Kenyan women living in a malaria endemic area to daily supplementation with 60 mg of iron (n = 237 women) or placebo (n = 233) until 1 month postpartum.

“Overall, we found no effect of daily iron supplementation during pregnancy on risk of maternal Plasmodium infection. Iron supplementation resulted in an increased birth weight [5.3 ounces], gestational duration, and neonatal length; enhanced maternal and infant iron stores at 1 month after birth; and a decreased risk of low birth weight (by 58 percent) and prematurity. The effect on birth weight was influenced by initial maternal iron status. Correction of maternal iron deficiency led to an increase in birth weight by [8.4 ounces].”

The results may apply to pregnant women in other low- and middle-income countries, although the effect on birth weight can vary depending on the prevalence of iron deficiency. “In low- and middle-income countries, it is generally impractical to screen for iron status, and most countries have policies for universal iron supplementation for pregnant women. Based on our results, we believe that the benefits of universal supplementation outweigh possible risks.”

If the intake of iron has been a worry for you or your loved one, here is a study to reduce the worry.

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