Vitamin A supplementation in postpartum women
Vitamin A is important for visual health, immune function and fetal growth and development. Vitamin A deficiency is a public health problem in many parts of the world, particularly Africa and South-East Asia. It can cause visual impairment in the form of night blindness and, in children, may increase the risk of illness and death from childhood infections, including measles and those causing diarrhoea.
Generally, infants are born with low vitamin A stores and are dependent on external sources, most importantly breast milk. Maternal dietary intake during pregnancy and postpartum is therefore an important determinant both of maternal vitamin A status and the vitamin A status of her infant.
In settings where vitamin A deficiency and/or undernutrition is common, mothers may produce breast milk with inadequate concentrations of vitamin A. Vitamin A supplementation in postpartum women might be expected to improve maternal vitamin A status, thereby increasing the vitamin A content of breast milk and improving the health of mother and infant. Current evidence suggests however, that vitamin A supplementation in postpartum women does not reduce the risk of illness or death in mothers or their infants.
Postpartum women should be encouraged to receive adequate nutrition, which is best achieved through consumption of a balanced healthy diet.
Vitamin A supplementation in postpartum women for the prevention of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality is not recommended.
Additional information for this recommendation can be found in the guidance summary and in the guideline, under 'WHO documents' below. This is one of several WHO recommendations on vitamin A supplementation. The full set of recommendations can be found in 'Full set of recommendations'.
Systematic reviews used to develop the guidelines
- Vitamin A supplementation for postpartum women
- Vitamin A supplementation for the prevention of morbidity and mortality in infants six months of age or less
Maternal postpartum vitamin A supplementation for the prevention of mortality and morbidity in infancy: a systematic review of randomized controlled trials