Background: Anemia affects almost two-thirds of pregnant women in developing countries and contributes to maternal morbidity and mortality and to low birthweight.
Objective: To determine the prevalence of anemia and the dietary and socioeconomic factors associated with anemia in pregnant women living in an urban community setting in Hyderabad, Pakistan.
Methods: This was a prospective, observational study of 1,369 pregnant women enrolled at 20 to 26 weeks of gestation and followed to 6 weeks postpartum. A blood sample was obtained at enrollment to determine hemoglobin levels. Information on nutritional knowledge, attitudes, and practice and dietary history regarding usual food intake before and during pregnancy were obtained by trained interviewers within 1 week of enrollment.
Results: The prevalence of anemia (defined by the World Health Organization as hemoglobin < 11.0 g/dL) in these subjects was 90.5%; of these, 75.0% had mild anemia (hemoglobin from 9.0 to 10.9 g/dL) and 14.8% had moderate anemia (hemoglobin from 7.0 to 8.9 g/dL). Only 0.7% were severely anemic (hemoglobin < 7.0 g/ dL). Nonanemic women were significantly taller, weighed more, and had a higher body mass index. Multivariate analysis after adjustment for education, pregnancy history, iron supplementation, and height showed that drinking more than three cups of tea per day before pregnancy (adjusted prevalence odds ratio [aPOR], 3.2; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.3 to 8.0), consumption of clay or dirt during pregnancy (aPOR, 3.7; 95% CI, 1.1 to 12.3), and never consuming eggs or consuming eggs less than twice a week during pregnancy (aPOR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1 to 2.5) were significantly associated with anemia. Consumption of red meat less than twice a week prior to pregnancy was marginally associated with anemia (aPOR, 1.2; 95% CI, 0.8 to 1.8) but was significantly associated with lower mean hemoglobin concentrations (9.9 vs. 10.0 g/dL, p = .05) during the study period. A subanalysis excluding women with mild anemia found similar associations to those of the main model, albeit even stronger.
Conclusions: A high percentage of women at 20 to 26 weeks of pregnancy had mild to moderate anemia. Pica, tea consumption, and low intake of eggs and red meat were associated with anemia. Women of childbearing age should be provided nutritional education regarding food sources of iron, especially prior to becoming pregnant, and taught how food choices can either enhance or interfere with iron absorption.