Maternal night blindness during pregnancy is associated with low birthweight, morbidity, and poor growth in South India

James M Tielsch, Lakshmi Rahmathullah, Joanne Katz, R D Thulasiraj, Christian Coles, S Sheeladevi, Kartik Prakash
Journal of Nutrition 2008, 138 (4): 787-92
Maternal night blindness is common during pregnancy in many developing countries. Previous studies have demonstrated important consequences of maternal night blindness during pregnancy on the health of the mother and newborn infant. We compared birthweight, 6-mo infant mortality, morbidity, and growth among infants of women who did and did not report a history of night blindness from a community-based, randomized trial of newborn vitamin A supplementation in south India. Birthweight was measured within 72 h of delivery. Infants were followed until 6 mo of age for mortality and morbidity was assessed at household visits every 2 wk. Anthropometry was assessed at 6 mo of age. A total of 12,829 live-born infants were included, 680 of whom were infants of mothers with night blindness during the index pregnancy. Maternal night blindness was associated with an increased risk of low birthweight in a dose-dependent fashion based on birthweight cut-offs: <2500 g, adjusted relative risk (RR) = 1.13 (95% CI = 1.01, 1.26); <2000 g, adjusted RR = 1.70 (95% CI = 1.27, 2.26); <1500 g, adjusted RR = 3.38 (95% CI = 1.18, 6.33); with an increased risk of diarrhea (adjusted RR = 1.16, 95% CI = 1.03, 1.30), dysentery (adjusted RR = 1.25, 95% CI = 1.03, 1.53), acute respiratory illness (adjusted RR = 1.32, 95% CI = 1.21, 1.44), and poor growth at 6 mo; underweight (adjusted RR = 1.14, 95% CI = 1.02, 1.26), stunting (adjusted RR = 1.19, 95% CI = 1.05, 1.34). Maternal night blindness was not associated with 6-mo infant mortality or wasting at 6 mo. This study demonstrates that there are important consequences to the infant of maternal vitamin A deficiency during pregnancy.

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