Iron/folic acid supplementation during pregnancy protects against neonatal deaths

August 2010

Findings presented in the August Bulletin of the World Health Organization suggest that 20 percent of neonatal deaths in Indonesia could be averted through routine iron/folic acid (IFA) supplementation of pregnant women. Building on a previous finding that use of antenatal care decreased neonatal mortality among Indonesian newborns, investigators pooled data from three Demographic and Health Surveys conducted between 1994 and 2003 to determine if that decrease in death was associated with antenatal care itself or more specifically with IFA supplementation and/or tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccination. Data on more than 40,000 women/infants were analyzed and revealed that TT vaccination and IFA were associated, respectively, with 34 percent and 47 percent reductions in the risk of neonatal death. However, further analysis showed that without IFA, TT showed no protective effect and antenatal care showed only a slight protective effect. Moreover, a protective effect of IFA was present even among women who received no other form of antenatal care. The authors hypothesized that IFA may prevent neonatal death indirectly through reducing the risk of low birth weight. 

Iron and folic acid supplements and reduced early neonatal deaths in Indonesia