Findings from the NIH-funded study could combat undernutrition for the poor.

For women in resource-poor settings, taking a certain daily nutritional supplement improves growth of the fetus, according to a study funded by the National Institutes of Health. One should be taken

 the supplement before conception or in early pregnancy.

The inexpensive supplement includes dried skimmed milk, soybean and peanut extract blended into a peanut butter-like consistency.

The supplement is fortified with essential vitamins and minerals and provides protein and fatty acids often lacking in the women’s diets.

The study was conducted by researchers in the Eunice Kennedy ShriverNational Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Global Network for Women’s and Children’s Health Research. The study also received support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

pregnancy supplement

Researchers distributed the supplement to women in rural areas of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Guatemala, India and Pakistan. Roughly 7,300 women were randomized to either receive the supplement three months before conception or during the first trimester (third) of pregnancy. Others received no supplement other than what they may have received from local health services.

Women in the supplement groups were 31 percent less likely to have an infant that was of shorter length (stunted) at birth.

And they were and 22 percent less likely to have an infant that was small for gestational age. According to the authors, these findings show that it’s possible in poor areas to inexpensively improve maternal nutrition before and in the early stages of pregnancy.

Learn More

Hambidge, KM, et al. A multi-country randomized controlled trial of comprehensive maternal nutrition supplementation initiated prior to conception: the Women First trial. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.2019. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqy228(link is external).

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