Fewer iron supplements during pregnancy work just as well for preventing anemia

July 10, 2012

Taking iron supplements one to three times a week instead of every day is just as effective at preventing anaemia in pregnant women, according to the findings of a new Cochrane systematic review. The authors of the review also showed that women experienced fewer side effects when taking iron supplements intermittently rather than daily.

Lack of iron can cause anaemia in , potentially increasing the risk of complications at delivery. It may also be harmful to their babies, through increased risk of low birth weight and even delayed growth and development later in life. Anaemia is diagnosed as a low level of haemoglobin in the blood. However, haemoglobin levels should be carefully controlled during , as high concentrations have also been associated with an increased risk of babies being born early or with . Traditionally, anaemia during pregnancy is prevented by daily supplements containing iron and folic acid, started as early in the pregnancy as possible. However, some countries, such as the UK, do not recommend routine preventive iron supplementation to all women.

The researchers analysed data from 18 trials involving a total of 4,072 pregnant women who took iron supplements alone, with folic acid or with multi-vitamin and mineral supplements. According to the results, women who took once, twice or three times a week on non-consecutive days were no more likely to suffer from anaemia by the end of their pregnancies than those who took them daily, and their babies were no more likely to be born early or have a . Furthermore, those taking the supplements intermittently rather than daily were less likely to experience side effects including , constipation and high haemoglobin levels during pregnancy.

"Intermittent could be considered as a feasible alternative to daily supplementation for preventing anaemia during pregnancy, particularly in where anaemia in pregnancy is not a public health problem and there is good antenatal care for monitoring anaemia status," said lead author Juan Pablo Peña-Rosas, Coordinator of Evidence and Programme Guidance of the Department of Nutrition for Health and Development at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. "At the moment evidence is limited and the quality of the trials included in our review was generally low."

The review authors say further research is needed to clarify safe maternal iron doses and their effects on infants. "It is important to evaluate new regimens to be able to respond to the need of the different countries that face different challenges in anaemia prevention during pregnancy. We would advise that trials make an effort to evaluate the health of newborns and infants from birth to six months of life or more," said Peña-Rosas.

Explore further: Micronutrient powders reduce anemia and iron deficiency in infants in low-income countries

More information: Peña-Rosas JP, De-Regil LM, Dowswell T, Viteri FE. Intermittent oral iron supplementation during pregnancy. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD009997. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD009997

Related Stories

Micronutrient powders reduce anemia and iron deficiency in infants in low-income countries

September 7, 2011
Adding a powder that contains several vitamins and minerals, including iron, zinc and vitamin A, to the semi-solid foods taken by infants and children between six months and two years of age, can reduce their risk of anaemia ...

Recommended for you

Expert: Be concerned about how apps collect, share health data

October 20, 2017
As of 2016 there were more than 165,000 health and wellness apps available though the Apple App Store alone. According to Rice University medical media expert Kirsten Ostherr, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates ...

More teens than ever aren't getting enough sleep

October 19, 2017
If you're a young person who can't seem to get enough sleep, you're not alone: A new study led by San Diego State University Professor of Psychology Jean Twenge finds that adolescents today are sleeping fewer hours per night ...

Across Asia, liver cancer is linked to herbal remedies: study

October 18, 2017
Researchers have uncovered widespread evidence of a link between traditional Chinese herbal remedies and liver cancer across Asia, a study said Wednesday.

Eating better throughout adult years improves physical fitness in old age, suggests study

October 18, 2017
People who have a healthier diet throughout their adult lives are more likely to be stronger and fitter in older age than those who don't, according to a new study led by the University of Southampton.

Global calcium consumption appears low, especially in Asia

October 18, 2017
Daily calcium intake among adults appears to vary quite widely around the world in distinct regional patterns, according to a new systematic review of research data ahead of World Osteoporosis Day on Friday, Oct. 20.

New study: Nearly half of US medical care comes from emergency rooms

October 17, 2017
Nearly half of all US medical care is delivered by emergency departments, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine (UMSOM). And in recent years, the percentage of care delivered ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.