New data published in BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth indicated that, while the use of prenatal dietary supplements in Colombia was “substantial”, most users had a high socioeconomic status and most were in their third trimester.
“In contrast,” wrote the researchers, “there was no guarantee of receiving essential vitamins and minerals in the other two trimesters of pregnancy. This situation is troubling, especially if we consider that 18% of pregnant women in Colombia have anemia and 37% suffer from iron deficiency.
“These results indicate the necessity of implementing new health policies that guarantee uniform access to nutritional supplements for all population sectors.”
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), all pregnant woman should receive vitamin and mineral supplements from one month before conception until the end of the first pregnancy trimester, explained the researchers.
“The results of our study highlight the fact that Colombia must implement interventions and/or reproductive health programs with a view to guaranteeing an all-encompassing obstetric care system. This includes meeting nutritional needs throughout the entire pregnancy, regardless of the education level or geographic location of the pregnant woman,” they added.
“An effective strategy would thus be to follow the recommendations of the Grupo Asesor en Micronutrientes [Micronutrients Advisory Group] of MERCOSUR , which include a varied diet, iron supplements for pregnant women and children under two, and food fortification (i.e.: wheat flour, maize flour, and rice).”
Led by Robinson Ramírez-Vélez, the researchers assessed data from 1,856 pregnant women from the cross-sectional, nationally representative ENSIN survey. The survey indicated that 69% of the women reported taking prenatal dietary supplements (Vitamins A, C or E) at some stage during pregnancy.
Drilling down into the data revealed that 80% of users had a high socioeconomic level, and 80% were in the third trimester. Usage was also high among women aged between 30 and 49 living in the central region of Colombia.
“Consequently, lessons learned from the Colombian context through analyses of available surveillance data as well as from the future process and impact evaluation of policies and programs have the potential to inform malnutrition prevention efforts in other settings,” wrote Ramírez-Vélez and his co-workers.
“In Colombia, the following three strategies can be implemented to improve nutritional status: (i) dietary interventions that promote increased consumption of a greater variety of locally available nutritious foods; (ii) fortification of commonly consumed foods/seasonings; (iii) provision of nutritional supplements that help individuals achieve required intakes of certain nutrients often lacking in staple diets.”