Vitamin A or β-Carotene supplementation reduces symptoms of illness in pregnant and lactating Nepali women

Parul Christian, Keith P. West, Subarna K. Khatry, Joanne Katz, Steven C. Leclerq, Elizabeth Kimbrough-Pradhan, Sanu Maiya Dali, Sharada Ram Shrestha

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

54 Scopus citations


The contribution of nutritional interventions to the reduction in matemal morbidity rates in developing countries is not well known. We assessed the impact of weekly vitamin A and β-carotene supplementation on the prevalence of pregnancy and postpartum illness symptoms among 15,832 Nepali women in a placebo-controlled, double-masked, cluster-randomized trial. There was no impact of either supplement on morbidity rates reported up to 28 wk of gestation, inclusive. However, in late pregnancy (>28 wk), symptoms of nausea, faintness and night blindness were reduced with vitamin A, but not β-carotene, supplementation. Vitamin A supplementation shortened the length of labor by 1.5 h 50 min among nulliparous and multiparous women, respectively. Both interventions reduced the postpartum prevalence of at least four loose stools and night blindness. β-Carotene supplementation also reduced symptoms of high fever postpartum. The mean number of days of any reported illness symptoms was 3-4 per wk throughout pregnancy. Among women receiving vitamin A, the total number of days of illness symptoms accrued over the last 12 wk of pregnancy was lower by 5 d compared with the placebo recipients. We found the burden of pregnancy-related illness symptoms to be high in this rural area of Nepal where antenatal care is poor and most deliveries occur at home. Matemal vitamin A or β-carotene supplementation resulted in a reduction in the prevalence of selected illness symptoms during late pregnancy, at the time of birth and during 6 mo postpartum, suggesting that a diet adequate in vitamin A may be important for improving women's reproductive health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2675-2682
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Nutrition
Issue number11
StatePublished - 2000


  • Humans
  • Illness symptoms
  • Pregnancy and lactation
  • Vitamin A
  • β-Carotene

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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