Students Investigate Causes of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnant Laotian Women

Four FSN students had the opportunity to investigate the causes of iron deficiency anemia in pregnant Laotian women.

Rebecca Tan, Devi Eka, Theresa Kwek and Yong Jin Jin spent a week conducting a KAP survey at the Mother and Child Clinic of Mahosot Hospital, an important medical research and training centre in Vientiane. They collected anthropometry data and interviewed 100 pregnant women at the antenatal clinic regarding their dietary practices.

Devi and Theresa obtaining anthropometry measurements

They found that two thirds of the women had inadequate  dietary iron intakes. Fortunately, 85% of them received prescriptions for iron-containing supplements and were compliant, thus they were able to meet their iron requirement.

Elsewhere in Lao, nearly half of the women do not take iron supplements during their pregnancy and a quarter took less than the recommended 90 pills.

Maternal anemia increases the risk of having preterm delivery or low birth weight infants, postpartum hemorrhage and maternal death.

A commonly prescribed prenatal supplement

The respondents generally lacked nutrition knowledge. Many follow food restrictions/taboos during pregnancy and in the post-partum period which compromise their nutrient intakes.

Jin Jin conducting a dietary interview.

Mother & Child Clinic at Mahosot Hospital

The team developed a short video to be screened in the antenatal clinic to educate pregnant women about healthful eating during pregnancy.

Dr Phimmasone Sirimanotham, Head of the Clinic, is very pleased with the team’s effort. “The findings help us improve clinical service delivery to the pregnant women at our clinic,” she said.

The team with Dr Siri, Head of Mother and Child Clinic, and the nursing staff

Despite numerous challenges like the language barrier and limited time for data collection, Rebecca is grateful for the wealth of experience she has gained. She was motivated to complete the project to make an impact on the people in Lao. “I would not have traded this project for another. Overseas projects like this enable you to discover new things about yourself and other people around you.”

Rebecca interviewing a pregnant woman regarding food taboos

Devi encourages other students to get involved in such eye-opening and life-changing projects. “This project has really changed my way of seeing things. I become braver to step out of my comfort zone - I discovered that’s when I learn the most!”

Devi presenting a token of appreciation to a participant

The team presented their findings to a group of Laotian officials in TP


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