Is Distribution a Problem in Iron-Folic Acid Consumption in India? An Exploration of District Level Household Survey

Shiva S. Halli1
, Rajeshwari A. Biradar2, *

1 Department of Community Health Sciences, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada
2 Tata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Development Studies, Mumbai, India

© 2020 Halli and Biradar.

open-access license: This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International Public License (CC-BY 4.0), a copy of which is available at: ( This license permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

* Address correspondence to this author at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, School of Development Studies, V.N. Purav Marg, Eden Gardens, Deonar, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400088, India,



Anemia accounts for 40% of maternal deaths in India. In order to address this problem, the Government of India implemented the largest programme with the greatest potential to reduce maternal mortality by free distribution of Iron-Folic Acid (IFA) supplementations especially during Antenatal Care (ANC) visits. But the major concern among the policymakers and researchers has been poor adherence to the supplement among pregnant women. However, we tend to think that given the severity of the problem, there is no investigation on the adherence issue. Hence, the aim of the paper is to understand whether IFA consumption by pregnant women in India is largely a distribution problem of IFA supplements through ANC.


The distribution of Iron-Folic Acid (IFA) supplementation is not working especially through Antenatal Care (ANC) attendance. The program implementers believe that it is because of lack of adherence to IFA supplements by pregnant women. It is important to investigate the problem before any policy changes are made without proper evidence.


The purpose of this study is to examine whether the problem of IFA consumption by pregnant women is due to the problem of public distribution of IFA supplements through ANC attendance.


This study had used the fourth round of District Level Household Survey data, which collects information on IFA supplements, their distribution and consumption. Bivariate and tri-variate analyses were used to understand the relationship between IFA distribution to pregnant women and their consumption patterns in 19 Indian states and two Union Territories (UTs) of pregnant women (88,487) and between the age of 15-49 years.


In almost all the states except Chhattisgarh, more than 75% of the pregnant women consumed 100 or more IFA supplements when they received 100 or more IFA supplements from providers. Similar is the case even among those women who received 100 or more IFA supplements through 1 or 2 ANC attendance except Arunachal Pradesh (60%), Meghalaya (67%), Pondicherry (57%) and Andaman and Nicobar (0%). The consumption of IFA supplements among pregnant women gets better than 75% if they receive 100 or more supplements only after attending three or more ANCs.


It seems that distribution is a problem in the consumption of IFA supplements by pregnant women in India. Full antenatal attendance by the women could be part of the problem but not supplying at least 100 IFA supplementations to even those who attend ANC due to stock-outs and ineffective management is a serious concern. Hence, Governments should distribute at least the recommended 100 IFA supplements to the women in their 1st ANC attendance to address anaemia.

Keywords: Pregnant women, IFA supplement, ANC, Distribution and consumption, DLHS, India.