OBJECTIVE: Over half of pregnant women in India are affected by anaemia, which can lead to premature birth, low birth weight and maternal and child mortality. Using formative research, we aimed to understand social and cultural factors around iron and folic acid (IFA) supplement provision and adherence to identify potential strategies for improving adherence and behaviours to prevent and treat anaemia among pregnant and lactating Indian women.
DESIGN: In-depth interviews and focus group discussions with women and key informant interviews with health officials and workers.
SETTING: Four districts in two Indian states: Allahabad and Bara Banki districts in Uttar Pradesh and Chikkballapura and Mandya districts in Karnataka.
PARTICIPANTS: Pregnant and lactating women (n 65) and district officials and community health workers (n 14).
RESULTS: Most women were aware of anaemia but did not understand its seriousness and consequences. All women received IFA supplements (predominantly for free), but many were not adherent because of side effects; lack of information from healthcare providers on the causes of anaemia, its seriousness and solutions and low social support. To address anaemia, women were most confident in their ability to prepare and eat healthier foods but lacked control over resources such as appropriate food availability.
CONCLUSIONS: Based on the findings, we recommend multicomponent interventions to train healthcare providers, address systemic barriers and involve family members to support IFA supplement adherence and dietary changes. Future research will determine which strategies are most effective to reduce the burden of anaemia in India among pregnant and lactating women.