Self-management of iron and folic acid supplementation during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postnatal periods: A systematic review

Shannon E. King, Ping Teresa Yeh, Dong Keun Rhee, Özge Tuncalp, Lisa M. Rogers, Manjulaa Narasimhan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Introduction While the use of folic acid pre-pregnancy and iron and folic acid (IFA) during pregnancy and postnatal have been demonstrated to be effective and are recommended interventions by WHO, ensuring individuals adhere to the supplementation regimen can be a challenge. Self-care interventions that support an individual's ability to promote their own health with or without the support of health workers could help promote the uptake and adherence to supplementation. This systematic review assessed the evidence around self-management of IFA or folic acid supplementation accessed over-the-counter during pre-pregnancy, pregnancy and postnatal periods. Methods Peer-reviewed studies were included if they compared self-management of IFA or folic acid supplementation with health worker-initiated supplement use on maternal and/or fetal and newborn health outcomes, end-users' or health workers' values and preferences, or cost and/or cost-effectiveness. We searched PubMed, CINAHL, LILACS and EMBASE for articles published through November 2020, hand-searched clinical trial registries, reviewed databases and contacted experts in the field. Abstract screening and full-text review were conducted independently by two reviewers. Results Overall, 2344 results were identified, and 28 studies were identified for full-text review. All studies were excluded, as they were not primary research, lacked the outcomes of interest, lacked specificity in supplement type, and/or lacked a comparison group. Conclusion No evidence was identified that distinguishes self-management of folic acid supplements pre-pregnancy and of IFA supplements during pregnancy and postnatal, highlighting a gap in our current understanding of self-care related to dietary supplementation in pregnancy. The findings of this review identify an area for further research to support the current movement towards self-care interventions as an added choice to help individuals more fully attain their reproductive health and rights. Systematic review registration number PROSPERO CRD42020205548

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere005531
JournalBMJ Global Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 14 2021


  • nutrition
  • public health
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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