Ferritin Frenzy: 1 in 2 Pregnancies Are Impacted by Iron Deficiency


Photo by Marcos Ramírez on Unsplash

Mothers-to-be are not checking their iron levels during advanced-stage pregnancy. And that’s a problem.

Iron deficiency during pregnancy is associated with devastating consequences including premature births, low birth weight babies, delays in growth and development milestones and delayed normal infant activity and movement, according to Iron Disorders Institute. Poor memory and mental function are also associated with low iron levels during pregnancy, leading to poor academic and work performance later in life.

Approximately, 50% of pregnant women suffer from iron deficiency during pregnancy and 25% suffer from severe iron deficiency, according to new research out of Canada. Strikingly, 40% of pregnant women never even get tested for low iron.

“Despite the very high prevalence of iron deficiency in pregnancy, and how easy it is to treat, we are not doing a very good job of checking for it,” research head Jennifer Teichman, MD, a Hematology Fellow at the University of Toronto, said in a statement.

Inconsistent recommendations for testing ferritin, the blood protein that contains iron, may be the reason to blame. Most patients are tested for iron during the first prenatal appointment. But testing iron levels throughout pregnancy pinpoints deficiencies as they occur.

“Iron deficiency becomes more common as women progress through pregnancy,” Teichman said. “If we don’t re-evaluate iron stores later in pregnancy, we miss a lot of women who are becoming iron deficient in later trimesters.”

Of the more than 44,500 pregnant women studied, only 60% of patients received a ferritin test and 71% of women who were tested, were tested in the first trimester. In many cases, iron levels were checked only once during pregnancy and women of lower socioeconomic status were less likely to be tested for iron deficiency.

“Iron deficiency is very common, and there can be poor outcomes for both mom and baby if it isn’t identified and treated,” Teichman said in the statement. “The good news is that it’s easily found with a simple blood test and completely correctable with iron supplements.”

Women who are pregnant or are planning a pregnancy, should take the reins of their health care and ask to be checked routinely throughout their pregnancy. Additionally, good nutrition and eating foods high in iron content during pregnancy are essential steps women should take to prevent deficiencies.

The study was published in Blood Advances.