Background: Child stunting is a public health problem in developing countries. Studies have shown that maternal nutrition is an important determinant of fetal and postnatal growth. However, the diets of women in developing countries are often deficient in energy, protein and vital micronutrients. Improving the health and nutrition of mothers and mothers-to-be is important in addressing many underlying causes of child malnutrition. Hence strategies to improve children’s nutritional status and growth should include interventions to improve nutrition of pregnant and lactating women. The World Health Organization (WHO) advises that, to improve children’s growth, pregnant women in developing countries should take iron supplements, and lactating mothers should take Vitamin A supplements. Despite the implementation of these interventions, there is little information on how antenatal and postnatal maternal micronutrient supplements influence child growth in developing countries.
Objective: Evaluate the role of maternal Vitamin A and iron supplements on children’s nutritional status and growth. We compare the differences in st
unting between children whose mothers received one or both of these two micronutrient supplements during pregnancy and after delivery and children whose mothers did not receive either of the micronutrients.
Methods: We use cross-sectional survey data from the Zimbabwe Demographic and Health Survey of 2010-11 (ZDHS 2010-11). A stratified, two-stage cluster design was used for the survey. For our analysis we use data from 2,007 children under age 3 whose anthropometric measurements were recorded during the survey. Logistic regression analysis was used to identify determinants of child nutritional status, defined as height-for-age (stunting).
Results: Forty percent of the mothers received postpartum Vitamin A supplements, while 53% received iron supplements during pregnancy. Results show that maternal iron supplements reduced child stunting (aOR = 0.73; 95% CI = (0.58, 0.91); p = 0.006). However, Vitamin A supplementation did not have an effect on child stunting (aOR = 1.09; 95% CI = (0.86, 1.37); p = 0 .474).
Conclusion: The results of this study indicate that maternal iron supplementation during pregnancy reduces early childhood malnutrition, especially stunting. Postpartum Vitamin A supplementation, however, does not appear to have an effect on the nutritional status of children. The effects of Vitamin A supplements on child nutrition may be indirect, and may not necessarily be on child growth but rather on other children’s health and developmental issues.