Deficiencies in some vital nutrients during pregnancy are very common in women in low-income countries and can lead to birth complications such as preterm births, low birth weight, and infant mortality. This is why governments provide pregnant women with two important micronutrients – iron and folic acid. But there are other vital micronutrients as well. If pregnant women consume not only iron and folic acid but also other micronutrients in a supplement, it would improve women’s health and birth outcomes. But these tablets cost more, so are they worth it?
To find the answer, we created a mathematical model, which helped us estimate the benefits and costs of replacing iron and folic acid tablets with multiple micronutrient tablets in two countries – Bangladesh and Burkina Faso. Our results showed that such a switch could cost-effectively reduce birth complications and life-long disabilities and save more than 15,000 lives in Bangladesh and more than 5,000 lives in Burkina Faso each year if all pregnant women were to take the recommended number of tablets.