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Iron Deficiency Places Pregnant Women at Risk of Complications

By Nadia Liefsoens
Posted on 04 Aug 2016
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Image: A new study suggests over one-third of pregnant women have an iron deficiency, putting them at an increased risk of thyroid disorders and pregnancy complications (Photo courtesy of BBC).
Image: A new study suggests over one-third of pregnant women have an iron deficiency, putting them at an increased risk of thyroid disorders and pregnancy complications (Photo courtesy of BBC).
Researchers at Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB, Belgium) and Centre Hosptilalier Universitaire Saint Pierre (HUSP; Brussels, Belgium) conducted a cross-sectional analysis of 1,900 pregnant women in their first trimester. The researchers measured blood ferritin levels and the presence of antibodies against thyroid peroxidase (TPO), thyroid hormone free thyroxine (FT4) and thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH).

The results, as measured by ferritin levels, showed that 35% of the pregnant women were iron deficient. The levels of TSH indicated 20% of women in the iron deficient group had subclinical hypothyroidism, compared to 16% in the non-deficient group. And levels of TPO antibodies showed that 10% of the women in the iron deficient group suffered from thyroid autoimmunity, compared to 6% in the non-deficient group. The study was published on July 22, 2016, in European Journal of Endocrinology.

“Considering that our study took place in a relatively wealthy country, our results show that even in 2016 iron deficiency remains an important problem,” said lead author Kris Poppe, MD, head of the endocrine clinic at HUSP. “Women should be checked for iron deficiency during pregnancy, and ideally before too. Iron supplements should be given out to decrease a number of established pregnancy complications, but it needs to be proven whether they can decrease thyroid problems too.”

THS is a pituitary hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland to produce T4 to fuel the metabolism of almost every tissue in the body. Thyroid hormones are also important for the full development of a baby’s brain, which is especially critical during the first semester when the fetus has not yet developed a thyroid gland of its own. Iron, on the other hand, is important for the normal functioning of thyroid peroxidase (TPO), a protein essential for the correct functioning of the thyroid.

Related Links:
Université Libre de Bruxelles
Centre Hosptilalier Universitaire Saint Pierre

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