Effects of vitamin A or beta carotene supplements on maternal and infant mortality

May 2011

In an effort to extend the findings of a study in Nepal that reported a 44 percent decrease in maternal mortality resulting from vitamin A or beta carotene supplementation in pregnancy, researchers conducted a large randomized controlled trial in Bangladesh, providing the same dosages that were used in the Nepal study. Supplements were provided from the identification of pregnancy through 12 weeks postpartum. In the study in Bangladesh, however, no differences from control were observed for all-cause maternal, fetal, or infant mortality. While these results differ dramatically from the Nepal study, they concur with those from a similar large-scale trial in Ghana, which also showed no mortality reduction from weekly vitamin A or beta carotene supplementation. The authors suggest a variety of factors that may account for the discrepancy between the Nepal and Bangladesh results, including a lower prevalence of vitamin A deficiency, higher proportion of attended births, and much lower mortality among mothers in Bangladesh.

Effects of Vitamin A or Beta Carotene Supplementation on Pregnancy-Related Mortality and Infant Mortality in Rural Bangladesh: A Cluster Randomized Trial