A new study has found that daily iron supplementation during pregnancy in a malaria-endemic region of Kenya did not result in an increased risk of the disease.
The study was conducted to measure the effect of antenatal iron supplementation on maternal Plasmodium infection risk, which is commonly known as the malaria parasite, maternal iron status, and neonatal outcomes.
Published in the journal JAMA, the study found that iron supplementation increased birth weight, gestational duration and neonatal length, as well as a decreasing the risk of low birth weight and prematurity.
As part of the study, Martin Mwangi of Wageningen University in the Netherlands, and colleagues randomly assigned 470 pregnant Kenyan women to daily supplementation with 60mg of elemental iron or placebo for one month postpartum.
A dosage of 5.7mg iron/day was administered to all women through flour fortification during intervention and usual intermittent preventive treatment against malaria was given.
A total of 40 (22 iron, 18 placebo) women from 470 were excluded to follow-up or birth; 12 mothers were discounted to follow-up postpartum (five iron, seven placebo).
Plasmodium infection risk for the intervention and controls groups was 50.9% and 52.1% respectively.
Serious adverse events were reported for nine and 12 women who received iron and placebo respectively.
The researchers were quoted as saying: "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."