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Am J Clin Nutr. 2011 Jun;93(6):1312-20. doi: 10.3945/ajcn.110.007195. Epub 2011 Mar 23.

Assessment of iron status in US pregnant women from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 1999-2006.

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National Centers for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta, GA 30341-3724., USA.



Total body iron calculated from serum ferritin and soluble transferrin receptor concentrations allows for the evaluation of the full range of iron status.


We described the distribution of total body iron and the prevalence of iron deficiency (ID) on the basis of total body iron in US pregnant women.


We examined data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) in 1999-2006 for 1171 pregnant women.


ID prevalence (±SE) in US pregnant women, which was defined as total body iron <0 mg/kg, was 18.0 ± 1.4%. Pregnant women in the first trimester had a higher mean total body iron than did pregnant women in the second or third trimesters. ID prevalence in pregnant women increased significantly with each trimester (6.9 ± 2.2%, 14.3 ± 2.1%, and 29.5 ± 2.7% in the first, second, and third trimesters, respectively). Pregnant women with parity ≥2 had the lowest mean total body iron and the highest prevalence of ID compared with values for pregnant women with parity of 0 or 1. The ID prevalence in non-Hispanic white pregnant women was significantly lower than in Mexican American or non-Hispanic black pregnant women. The mean total body iron and the prevalence of ID did not differ by educational level or by family income.


To our knowledge, these are the first data on total body iron distributions for a representative sample of US pregnant women. Low total body iron is more prevalent in pregnant women in the second or third trimesters, in Mexican American pregnant women, in non-Hispanic black pregnant women, and in women with parity ≥2.

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