Objective: To assess the Vitamin A status of pregnant women in their third trimester using maternal serum retinol levels as the indicator; and (ii) To assess the impact of postpartum Vitamin A supplementation on the Vitamin A status of exclusively breastfed infants.
Design: Prospective randomized single blind controlled study.
Setting: Teaching Hospital.
Subjects: 109 apparently healthy primi and second gravida women registered at the antenatal clinic were included in the study and followed up for three months postpartum. Serum retinol levels of pregnant mothers in their third trimester (35-37 weeks) and cord blood levels after delivery were estimated. Mothers were then assigned to two groups. The experimental group included 53 mothers who received a single dose of 2 lakh units of Vitamin A orally. The control group had 56 mothers who did not receive Vitamin A. Mothers and infants were followed up for three months. The serum retinol of infants and the breast milk retinol levels were estimated at the end of three months and the results were compared. The growth of the infants was also monitored.
Results: Subclinical Vitamin A deficiency was seen in 29.67% of pregnant women. At the end of three months, 69.6% of mothers in the control group had breast milk retinol levels below 30 mg/dl, as opposed to 36.1% in the experimental group. Forty five per cent of infants in the control group had subclinical vitamin A deficiency compared to none in the experimental group. There was no difference in the growth of infants in the two groups. However, the infant serum and the breast milk retinol levels were significantly higher in the supplemented group.
Conclusion: There is a high prevalence of inapparent Vitamin A deficiency (29.7%) in pregnant women in their third trimester from lower socio-economic strata. Postpartum Vitamin A supplementation had a beneficial impact on the infant serum retional and the breast milk retinol level but no effect on infant growth.