Nutritional supplement taken before and during pregnancy cuts preterm births

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A Southampton study has shown that use of a nutritional supplement before and during pregnancy did not influence the mother’s blood sugar levels or birthweights of the 585 babies born, but was associated with lower rates of preterm births.

Researchers from the NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre and the international EpiGen Global Research Consortium, an academic group of clinicians and scientists led by Professor Keith Godfrey, have shown that taking a new supplement before and during pregnancy may help to reduce the number of babies born early.

Starting before pregnancy

The Nutritional Intervention Preconception and During Pregnancy to Maintain Healthy Glucose Metabolism and Offspring Health (NiPPeR) study aimed to understand whether early use of nutritional supplements could help in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels in pregnancy and sustaining a healthy pregnancy and delivery.

Between 2015 and 2017 the study recruited 1,729 women aged 18–38 from the UK, Singapore, and New Zealand who were planning to get pregnant in the next six months. The women were split into two groups, drinking two different powdered supplements dissolved in water twice a day, from before pregnancy through to birth.

The first group took an enhanced supplement containing myo-inositol, probiotics, vitamins D, B6, B12, riboflavin and zinc formulated to aid in maintaining healthy blood sugar levels in pregnancy and sustaining a healthy pregnancy and delivery. The second group took a standard pregnancy supplement for comparison. 585 women became pregnant within a year.

No effect on mother’s blood sugar levels, but benefits for reducing preterm birth

As published in the journal Diabetes Care, their results showed no significant difference between the two groups in their response to an oral glucose challenge test during pregnancy.

However, they did find that fewer babies were born early (before 37 weeks of pregnancy) in the group who took the enhanced supplement compared, with a particular reduction in births associated with preterm pre-labour rupture of membranes.

These results suggest that one or more of the components within the enhanced supplement might help to prevent preterm births, as supported by previous trials of myo-inositol supplements in pregnancy which also showed a reduction in preterm births. 

“Preterm delivery is a serious, common and costly public health problem worldwide that continues to increase in incidence,” said Professor Keith Godfrey, Professor of Epidemiology and Human Development at the University of Southampton and NIHR Southampton Biomedical Research Centre Nutrition Lead, who was chief investigator of the research.

“Preterm pre-labour rupture of membranes is a major cause of preterm birth. Our study presents for the first time a clinical trial of a novel non-pharmacological approach that started preconception and extended throughout pregnancy, through the innovative use of a combination of nutritional ingredients. The study findings highlight the potential value of the mix of nutrients and probiotics in reducing the risk of preterm birth and supporting a timely delivery.”

Posted on Friday 30 April 2021