Iron supplement use in pregnancy – are the right women taking the right amount?

08 December 2016

Objectives: To examine the prevalence and determinants of iron supplement use and the amount of iron consumed from iron-containing supplements. Methods: A cross-sectional survey was performed in antenatal clinics in two tertiary hospitals in Sydney, Australia between January and March 2014. Results: Of 612 (91% response rate) pregnant women, 589 with complete data were analysed. The overall prevalence of iron-containing supplement use was 88.0%, of which 70.1% was MV only, 7.2% was iron-only and 22.2% was both. Use of iron-containing supplements was associated with increased gestational age, a diagnosis of anaemia or iron deficiency (ID) in the current pregnancy and pre-pregnancy use of an iron-containing supplement. Several risk factors for ID or anaemia such as on-red meat eating and previous miscarriage were not associated with current iron supplement use. About 65% of women diagnosed with ID, and 62.3% of women diagnosed with anaemia were taking an iron-only supplement, with or without a MV. The proportion of women consuming low (<30), preventative (30-99) and treatment (≥100) mg/day doses were 36.8%, 45.4%, and 17.8%, respectively. Only 46.7% of women diagnosed with ID were taking ≥100 mg/day iron from supplements, while 23.3% were taking <30 mg/day. Conclusion: Women are consuming varying doses of iron and some high-risk women are taking inadequate doses of iron to prevent or treat ID or iron deficiency anaemia. Healthcare professionals are best positioned to advise women on iron supplement use in pregnancy and should educate women individually about the type and dose of supplement best suited to their needs.