Date Published: 
Monday, 7 April, 2014

Iron deficiency, anaemia and maternal mental disorders negatively impact infant motor development, researchers suggest

Professor Jorge Toblli

Maternal iron deficiency, anaemia and common mental disorders (CMD) have adverse consequences on subsequent infant motor development, a new study in Vietnam indicates. The findings highlight the need to improve the quality of antenatal care for pregnant women in low- and middle-income countries.

Data was collected from a cohort of pregnant women in 50 randomly-selected rural communes in Ha Nam province, Vietnam; twice during pregnancy (early and late gestation) and twice after giving birth (8 weeks and 6 months postpartum). The Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale was used to detect CMD (score ≥4). Maternal anaemia was defined as haemoglobin <11 g/dL and iron deficiency as ferritin <15 ng/mL. Infants’ motor development was assessed by the Bayley of Infant and Toddler Development Motor Scales (BSID-M) at 6 months of age.

In 418 patients, prevalence of iron deficiency was 4.1% at early pregnancy and 48.2% at late pregnancy. Prevalence of anaemia was 21.5% at early pregnancy and 24.4% at late pregnancy. Clinically significant symptoms of CMD were apparent among 40% of women at early pregnancy and 28% at late pregnancy. There were direct adverse effects on infant BSID-M scores at 6 months of age due to antenatal anaemia in late pregnancy (an estimated mean reduction of 2.61 points, 95% CI: 0.57–4.65) and CMD in early pregnancy (7.13 points, 95% CI: 3.13–11.13). Although not directly influencing results, iron deficiency and anaemia in early pregnancy were indirectly related to outcomes via anaemia during late pregnancy.

This study deals with several very important conditions with often totally irreversible consequences – maternal iron deficiency, anaemia and childhood nervous system alteration in populations with low to middle income. The study has been well conducted and provides strong evidence, which may stimulate the implementation of health policies to improve outcomes in this particular social-economic patient group. The authors conclude that future guidelines for interventions to promote infant development should address antenatal factors relating to iron deficiency, anaemia and maternal mental health.

The full article can be found in the January issue of BMC Pregnancy and Childbirth. For further information on treating iron deficiency in gynaecology please click here.