Maternal iron status influences iron transfer to the fetus during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Kimberly O. O'Brien, Nelly Zavaleta, Steven A. Abrams, Laura E. Caulfield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

79 Scopus citations


BACKGROUND: The effect of maternal iron status on fetal iron deposition is uncertain. OBJECTIVE: We used a unique stable-isotope technique to assess iron transfer to the fetus in relation to maternal iron status. DESIGN: The study group comprised 41 Peruvian women. Of these women, 26 received daily prenatal supplements containing iron and folate (n = 11; Fe group) or iron, folate, and zinc (n = 15; Fe+Zn group) from week 10-24 of pregnancy to 1 mo postpartum. The remaining 15 women (control group) received iron supplementation only during the final month of pregnancy. During the third trimester of pregnancy (+/- SD: 32.9 +/- 1.4 wk gestation) oral 57Fe (10 mg) and intravenous 58Fe (0.6 mg) stable iron isotopes were administered to the women, and isotope enrichment and iron-status indicators were measured in cord blood at delivery. RESULTS: The net amount of 57Fe in the neonates' circulation (from maternal oral dosing) was significantly related to maternal iron absorption (P < 0.005) and inversely related to maternal iron status during the third trimester of pregnancy: serum ferritin (P < 0.0001), serum folate (P < 0.005), and serum transferrin receptors (P < 0.02). Significantly more 57Fe was transferred to the neonates in non-iron-supplemented women: 0.112 +/- 0.031 compared with 0.078 +/- 0.042 mg in the control group (n = 15) and the Fe and Fe+Zn groups (n = 24), respectively (P < 0.01). In contrast, 58Fe tracer in the neonates' circulation was not significantly related to maternal iron status. CONCLUSION: The transfer of dietary iron to the fetus is regulated in response to maternal iron status at the level of the gut.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)924-930
Number of pages7
JournalThe American journal of clinical nutrition
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2003

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine (miscellaneous)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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