Vitamin A May Not Prevent Pregnancy-Related Deaths

Study in Ghana contradicts findings from previous research in Nepal
By Lindsey Marcellin
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, May 4 (HealthDay News) -- Weekly vitamin A supplements given to women of reproductive age may not reduce pregnancy-related deaths or all-cause mortality, according to research published online May 4 in The Lancet.

Betty R. Kirkwood, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues conducted a cluster-randomized, blinded, placebo-controlled study of 1,086 geographic clusters of compounds that had areas of fieldwork composed of four contiguous clusters in Ghana. They recruited women ages 15 to 45. Five hundred forty-four clusters (104,484 women) received vitamin A supplements -- 25,000 IU retinol equivalents -- weekly, and 542 clusters (103,297 women) received placebo.

In the vitamin A supplementation group, the researchers observed 348 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies, compared to 377 deaths per 100,000 pregnancies in the control group (adjusted odds ratio, 0.92; P = 0.51). In addition, there was no significant difference in all-cause mortality between the two groups (P = 0.85).

"Our results suggest that vitamin A supplementation once a week in women of reproductive age has no beneficial effect on their survival or on the survival of their babies in rural Ghana. The absence of an effect on stillbirth rate, neonatal survival, or infant survival accords with the findings of trials undertaken in Nepal and Bangladesh. However, the absence of an effect of vitamin A supplementation on pregnancy-related mortality contrasts with the substantial reduction in mortality reported in the Nepal trial, the only other trial in which all women of reproductive age were given supplements," the authors write.

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