Iron during pregnancy

Iron during pregnancy

Taking iron during pregnancy has been recommended in the past as a preventive treatment to help promote foetal and placental growth. Recent studies have indicated that higher levels of iron in the blood may have harmful effects on pregnant women. A recent study carried out by the Tarbiat Modarres University (Iran) and published in BJOG (An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology) warns women who do not suffer from anaemia to be careful about the consumption of iron supplements during pregnancy. La prise de fer sous forme de suppléments nutritionnels peut même se révéler dommageable pour la grossesse. De nombreuses femmes enceintes sont anémiques et souffrent d’un déficit d’apport de fer. Cette carence engendre des naissances prématurées et des naissances à terme de bébé de faible poids (hyptrophie). C’est uniquement dans une situation d’anémie, de déficit avéré en fer, que la supplémentation se révèle bénéfique pour le bon déroulement de la grossesse et le développement harmonieux du fœtus.

Context of the study

727 non-anaemic women took part in a study. 370 women were given a 150mg ferrous sulphate tablet everyday throughout their pregnancy while 357 women were given the same dosage of a placebo. The women were evaluated on their pregnancy outcome during their pregnancy and until six weeks after delivery. Researchers looked out for a range of conditions and changes such as the duration of pregnancy, method of delivery and weight gain and found that some of the women who were receiving the iron supplements developed hypertension and had a higher small for gestational age (SGA) birth rate. Researchers also found that iron supplementation increases the risk of copper and zinc deficiency in women.

Dr. Ziaei, from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology at Tarbiat Modarres University, who led the study said "A clinical trial was performed on 727 non-anaemic pregnant women with hemoglobin = 13.2 gr/dl in the early stage of the second trimester to study the relationship between iron supplementation and pregnancy outcome. The SGA birth rate and the number of women with hypertension disorder were higher in the women who received iron supplementation in comparison to the control group. Because routine iron supplementation is common, and our trial suggests that administering it even may have some disadvantages in non-anaemic women, the rationale of routine iron supplementation in non-anaemic women needs to be re-examined.".

Women who are not suffering from anaemia should ensure that they receive proper advice on diet and nutrition from their doctors and midwives.This study shows that iron supplements may have a harmful effect on women who do not need them in the first place. Overall supplementation is advised during pregnancy. It helps cope with the increasing needs for nutrients associated with this period. Therefore it is important to choose the best prenatal supplement. Prenatal supplements are aimed at pregnant women in general. As long as iron deficit has not been clearly diagnosed, it has been proved that iron supplements can turn harmful on women who do not suffer from anaemia. It is therefore important to choose a prenatal supplement that does not contain iron.

Sources : BJOG, An International Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology.

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