June 2013

Prenatal Iron Supplementation May Improve Infant Birth Weight

A recent study suggests that prenatal iron supplementation may reduce the risk for having a low birth weight infant.

Iron is an essential mineral and an important component of proteins involved in oxygen transport and metabolism. Iron supplements have been shown to help prevent iron deficiency anemia in pregnant women. Anemia in pregnant women is associated with adverse outcomes such as low birth weight, premature birth and maternal mortality. Screening by a qualified healthcare provider is needed. Low doses are generally well tolerated and associated with better compliance.

In a new study, researchers conducted a comprehensive literature search for well-designed clinical trials evaluating the effects prenatal iron supplementation and cohorts assessing prenatal anemia. Forty-eight clinical trials and 44 cohort studies were ultimately identified for inclusion.

The researchers found that iron supplementation significantly reduced the risk of anemia, iron deficiency, iron deficiency anemia and low birth weight when compared to control groups. Furthermore, with every 10 milligram increase in daily iron supplementation (up to 66 milligrams), the risk for anemia reduced by 12 percent, infant birth weight increased by 15.1 grams and the risk for having a low birth weight infant decreased by 3 percent.

The authors concluded that prenatal iron supplementation may significantly improve birth weight and reduce the risk for having a low birth weight infant. Further research is warranted.

The World Health Organization considers iron deficiency to be the largest international nutritional disorder. Approximately 50 percent of anemia worldwide is attributable to iron deficiency.

For more information about integrative therapies with evidence of benefit for pregnancy complications, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database.

For more information about iron, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.

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  1. Haider BA, Olofin I, Wang M, et al. Anaemia, prenatal iron use, and risk of adverse pregnancy outcomes: systematic review and meta-analysis. BMJ 2013;346:f3443
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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