Background: The aim of this review was to evaluate the impact of vitamin A supplementation on adult pregnant women and women who have just given birth in studies examining serum concentrations of vitamin A in breast milk and in maternal/child morbidity and mortality.
Methods: This review followed the recommendations in the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA). In November 2014, an electronic search was independently performed by two authors on the Medline, Scopus, Web of Science, and LILACS databases on studies published from January 2004 to November 2014. The methodological quality of the studies was assessed in accordance with the Jadad scale, which determines the exclusion of studies with scores lower than 3.
Results: It was observed that when supplementation was provided only in the immediate postpartum period, it increased the liver stores of vitamin A. On the other hand, when supplementation was provided during pregnancy and puerperium5, the propensity for depleting the stores of vitamin A at the end of pregnancy decreased, the immune system improved, and cases of gestational night blindness decreased, but there were no changes in the outcomes at childbirth or in maternal, fetal, and child mortality. When supplementation was provided before and during pregnancy and in the immediate postpartum period, an additional improvement of lung function evaluated in preschool-aged children was found, but no significant changes in cognitive and motor development were noted.
Conclusions: Studies show the benefits of vitamin A supplementation, not just in the immediate postpartum period but, above all, when it is provided before and/or during pregnancy. Considering the positive repercussions observed, we suggest supplementation both in the gestational period and in the immediate postpartum period as a way to enhance the safety of mother-child care.
Keywords: Vitamin A; breast milk; dietary supplements; postpartum period; pregnancy; review.