Multivitamins Urged for All Pregnant Women
A recent study in Tanzania found that whenpregnant women took vitamins every day, fewer babies were born too small.Babies that weigh less than two and one-half kilograms at birth have a greaterrisk of dying. Those that survive are more likely to experience problems with theirdevelopment. And experts say that as adults they have a higher risk of diseasesincluding heart disease and diabetes. The World Health Organization estimatesthat every year twenty million babies are born with low birth weight. Nine outof ten of them are born in developing countries.
The new study took place in Dar es Salaam.4,200 pregnant women received multivitamins. The pills contained all of thevitamins in the B group along with vitamins C and E. They also containedseveral times more iron and folate than the levels advised for women indeveloped nations. Pregnant women especially in poor countries may find itdifficult to get enough vitamins and minerals from the foods in their diet.
The scientists compared the findings withresults from a group of 4,000 women who did not receive the vitamins. A reportby the scientists, from the United States and Tanzania, appeared in the New England Journal of Medicine. WafaieFawzi of the Harvard University School of Public Health led the study. None ofthe women in the study had HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. The scientistsreported earlier that daily multivitamins were a low-cost way to reduce fetaldeaths in pregnant women infected with HIV. The earlier work in Tanzania alsofound improvement in the mothers in their number of blood cells known aslymphocytes. Lymphocytes increase the body’s immunity against infection.
The new study in pregnant women who werenot infected with the AIDS virus found that multivitamins reduced the risk oflow birth weight. Just under eight percent of the babies born to women who tookthe multivitamins weighed less than 2,500 grams. The rate was almost nine andone-half percent in the group of women who received a placebo, an inactivepill, instead of the vitamins. But the vitamins did not do much to reduce therates of babies being born too early or dying while still a fetus. Still, theresearchers say multivitamins should be considered for all pregnant women indeveloping countries.