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Multivitamins Improve Birth Outcomes Among Children Born With HIV

Each year an estimated 20 million children are born with low birth weight worldwide, more than 95% of them in developing countries//. Low birth weight is associated with neonatal and infant mortality, poor growth and cognitive development, and morbidity due to chronic diseases later in life, such as diabetes and heart disease.

In a new study, the largest to date, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, found that giving daily multivitamin supplements to HIV-negative women during pregnancy significantly reduced the risks of low birth weight and a small- for-gestational age birth size. There were no significant effects observed on the risks of prematurity or fetal death.

Birth weight is directly influenced by a number of factors, including maternal health, nutritional status and micronutrient deficiencies. Iron and folate supplements are routinely administered to pregnant women in many developing countries, including Tanzania, as part of standard prenatal care. However, many of these women are also deficient in a number of other micronutrients that are essential for maternal health and fetal and infant growth and survival. In a previous study by Fawzi and colleagues among HIV-positive pregnant women in Tanzania, multivitamin (B-complex, C and E) supplements significantly reduced the risks of adverse pregnancy outcomes, including pre-term birth, low birth weight and fetal death. As a result, multivitamin supplementation has been incorporated into a number of large-scale prenatal care programs for HIV-positive women. The current study was conducted to determine if the benefits of maternal multivitamin supplementation on birth outcomes applied to HIV-negative populations.

"In light of these findings, we recommend that multivitamins be considered for all pregnant women in developing countries, regardless of their HIV status," said Wafai
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