Quest Vitamins LTD,
Issue #60 : Iron supplements and pregnancyIron requirements are increased during pregnancy, primarily in order to increase the haemoglobin mass of the mother, and it is unlikely that diet alone would be adequate to fulfil this elevated requirement for iron. As a result, iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is common in pregnant women and prevention strategies include the administration of high dose iron supplements.
Gastrointestinal side effects are often associated with high dose iron supplements and a recent study investigated the efficacy of a low dose iron supplement in preventing IDA and ID (iron deficiency without anaemia) in pregnant women.
A total of 430 women participated in a randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 386 of which completed the follow-up to 6 months after delivery. Each subject was either assigned to take a 20mg iron supplement or a placebo daily from week 20 of gestation until delivery. Effects on iron status were assessed at the time of delivery and 6 months postpartum and gastrointestinal side effects were assessed at weeks 24 and 36 of gestation.
The results of the study showed that at delivery, the number of women with IDA was significantly lower in the iron-supplemented than in the placebo group (3% compared with 11%) and fewer women had ID in the iron-supplemented group compared with the placebo group (35% compared with 58%). There was no significant difference in gastrointestinal side effects between the iron-supplemented group and the placebo group.
At 6 months after delivery, the number of women with ID was significantly lower in the iron-supplemented group compared with the placebo group. There was no significant difference between the two groups with regard to IDA at 6 months after delivery.
It was concluded that supplementing the diet of pregnant women with 20mg of iron per day from week 20 of gestation until delivery is an effective side effect-free strategy for preventing IDA and ID.
Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jul; 78(1): 145-53.