The effect of prenatal food supplementation on child growth in northern Bangladesh

Primary Investigator

  • Briony Stevens

Study Period

January 2015 - January 2018

Study Description

Insufficient food intake during pregnancy is a major problem in many developing countries. Bangladesh has among the highest rates of maternal and child undernutrition globally. In the rural areas of Bangladesh, poverty is three times higher than in urban areas, women are less likely to access antenatal and postnatal services, and children suffer from higher rates of chronic malnutrition. In Bangladesh, one in five children are born with a low birth weight and one in three pregnant women are undernourished. Maternal undernutrition increases the risk of poor foetal growth. A fifth of childhood chronic malnutrition (stunting) may be caused by poor foetal growth as shown by having a low birth weight when born. For pregnant women, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends additional calories every day. There are many reasons why women in developing countries are not able to consume additional calories during their pregnancy. The pregnancy period presents a key phase for ensuring the survival, growth and development of the offspring. When pregnant women are undernourished, extra food during pregnancy can improve birth outcomes and has the potential to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women. The development of food-based supplements using locally available and preferred foods have proved effective, but research to-date has focused on contexts that are not generalizable to that of northern Bangladesh or focused on different target groups such as children. This study aims to develop a locally produced food based supplement, assess its acceptance, and identify its effect on child growth when consumed by undernourished pregnant women.

Study Arms

  • Intervention: Balanced protein energy supplementation; where the protein provided less than 25% of the total energy content (Ota et al. 2012). No micronutrients were added to the mix.
  • Control: No supplement

Primary Outcomes

  • Birth weight (salter scales) at birth.
  • Birth length (calibrated length board) at birth.
  • Birth head circumference (measuring tape) at birth.
  • Longer term growth (length/weight and head circumference) at 1, 3, 6 and 12 months of age.

Study Intervention

  • Locally produced

Research Gaps

  • Acceptability

    Which food products do recipients enjoy eating and have the fewest side effects?

  • Innovation

    What novel food-based products and programming methods effectively prevent and treat undernutrition?

Study Population