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Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5 Suppl):1285S-7S.

Maternal hemoglobin concentration and birth weight.

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Department of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, Imperial College School of Medicine, London, United Kingdom.


Pregnancy requires additional maternal absorption of iron. Maternal iron status cannot be assessed simply from hemoglobin concentration because pregnancy produces increases in plasma volume and the hemoglobin concentration decreases accordingly. This decrease is greatest in women with large babies or multiple gestations. However, mean corpuscular volume does not change substantially during pregnancy and a hemoglobin concentration <95 g/L in association with a mean corpuscular volume <84 fL probably indicates iron deficiency. Severe anemia (hemoglobin <80 g/L) is associated with the birth of small babies (from both preterm labor and growth restriction), but so is failure of the plasma volume to expand. Hemoglobin concentrations >120 g/L at the end of the second trimester are associated with a </=3-fold increased risk of preeclampsia and intrauterine growth restriction. The minimum incidence of low birth weight (<2.5 kg) and of preterm labor (<37 completed weeks) occurs in association with a hemoglobin concentration of 95-105 g/L. This is widely regarded as indicating anemia in the pregnant woman but, if associated with a mean corpuscular volume >84 fL, should be considered optimal.

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