Taking iron supplements during pregnancy doesn’t appear to significantly change any health outcomes for mom or baby, a new review shows.
A second review — this one on infants and toddlers — found no evidence that iron supplements improved growth or development.
Both conclusions come from a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) review of the latest research on iron supplementation and screening for pregnant women, babies and young children.
The USPSTF determined that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend that pregnant women or infants and children receive iron supplements or be screened for iron deficiencies. But, they also noted there isn’t enough evidence to recommend against either practice.
The recommendations regarding prenatal supplements are an unchanged update from those in 2006. What’s new is that this study also finds no evidence to support routine screening.
“There is not enough research to demonstrate that women need to be routinely screened for iron-deficiency anemia or that they should routinely take iron supplements in the absence of symptoms,” said Dr. Amy Cantor, lead author of the prenatal study.
“It is not particularly harmful to take an iron supplement, but it may not be necessary,” added Cantor, who is an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and family medicine at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland.
Generally, a healthy pregnant woman who does not have symptoms of low iron does not need any more than the 27 milligrams per day of iron that the Institute of Medicine recommends, Cantor said.
Her team analyzed the evidence from 11 trials on pregnant women routinely taking iron supplements. It found that supplements didn’t affect women’s quality of life or rates of C-sections, underweight newborns, preterm birth or infant death.
The researchers did find that women’s iron levels improved with supplements. But, whether or not there is a benefit from this change is unclear, according to the investigators.