The researchers wanted to find out the effects of prenatal iron use and the risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes.
As one of the main causes of anemia during pregnancy, low iron is a very common nutritional deficiency worldwide. An estimated 32 million pregnant women globally are affected by the condition. Young women, pregnant women and children are at the most risk of iron deficiency.
The World Health Organization recommends pregnant women should take 60 mg of iron daily. In this study, the researchers looked at the effects of iron supplements at doses up to 66mg a day.
Prenatal anemia increases the risk of premature birth. However, very few studies have looked at what effect iron levels during pregnancy might have on birth outcomes.
British and American researchers looked at over 90 different studies of prenatal iron use and prenatal anemia involving more than two million women.
They found that iron intake (supplements) significantly lowered the risk of developing anemia, and increased the mother's hemoglobin levels.
Iron levels were not found to reduce the risk of preterm birth. However, the studies showed that anemia during the first or second trimesters raised the risk giving birth to a low-weight baby.
The investigators found that for every 10 mg increase in daily iron intake:
- the risk of anemia went down by 12%
- the risk of giving birth to a low-weight baby was reduced by 3%
"Our findings suggest that use of iron in women during pregnancy may be used as a preventive strategy to improve maternal haematological status and birth weight, rigorous evaluation of the effectiveness of existing antenatal care programmes in high burden countries to identify gaps in policy and programme implementation."
They concluded that "prenatal anaemia and iron deficiency have been identified as one of the preventable risk factors for diseasewith a substantial disease burden." Future research should try to find"feasible strategies of iron delivery" and "evaluation of the effectiveness of other strategies, such as fortification and dietary diversification."
The video below shows a number of methods that help detect iron deficiency more effectively
Effects of iron deficiency among pregnant womenAccording to a University of Rochester Medical Center study, published in the scientific journal PLoS One, a pregnant mother's iron deficiency may have a profound and long-lasting effect on the brain development of the child, even if the lack of iron is not enough to cause severe anemia.
Iron deficiency delays the development of the auditory nervous system in premature babies, in fact, research has found that infants with low iron levels in their cord blood had abnormal maturation of the auditory system compared to those with normal cord iron levels.
Another study, published in the BMJ, found that by waiting for at least three minutes before clamping the umbilical cord, iron levels in healthy newborn babies are significantly improved at four months.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist