Background: Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy is a significant public health problem in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and is associated with serious adverse health outcomes. Although it is recommended that all women receive iron supplementation during pregnancy, little research has been conducted to measure overall compliance with this recommendation or variation across SSA countries. Objectives: To assess prevalence and sociodemographic-economic factors associated with adherence to iron supplementation among pregnant women in SSA. Methods: This was a weighted population-based cross-sectional study of 148,528 pregnant women aged 15-49 y in 22 SSA countries that participated in the Demographic and Health Surveys (DHS) in 2013-2018 and measured iron supplementation during pregnancy. Adherence to iron supplementation was defined as using iron supplementation for ≥90 d during pregnancy of the most recent birth. Results: The overall prevalence of adherence to ≥90 d of iron supplementation during pregnancy was 28.7%, ranging from 1.4% in Burundi to 73.0% in Senegal. Factors associated with adherence included receiving ≥4 antenatal care visits [adjusted Prevalence Ratio (aPR): 25.73; 95% CI: 22.36, 29.60] compared with no antenatal visits; secondary or higher education (aPR: 1.17; 95% CI: 1.14, 1.19) compared with no education; wealthy (aPR: 1.13; 95% CI: 1.10, 1.16) compared with poor; and older women aged 35-49 y (aPR: 1.07; 95% CI: 1.05, 1.10) compared with younger women aged 15-24 y. Conclusions: Adherence to iron supplementation during pregnancy in SSA is low and varies substantially across countries and in relation to factors such as number of antenatal visits, education, and level of family wealth. These results underscore the need for increased efforts to improve the uptake of iron supplementation for pregnant women in SSA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbernzz120
JournalCurrent Developments in Nutrition
Issue number12
StatePublished - Oct 21 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Food Science
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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