There May Be a New Way to Monitor Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy

And the best part—it’s super-easy to do.
ByStephanie Grassullo
Associate Editor
Published
Aug 2019
pregnant woman touches her belly at home
Photo: Raw Pixel

Iron deficiency is a common problem for many women during pregnancy, but, more often than not, it goes unrecognized and untreated. If not treated, iron deficiency may lead to serious health consequences, including anemia, early labor, low birth weight and long-term developmental issues for the child. Researchers at St. Michael’s say they’ve come up with a solution, or rather a toolkit, that may help.

To enhance the screening and management of iron deficiency during pregnancy, they’ve developed a toolkit called IRON MOM. IRON Deficiency in Pregnancy with Maternal Iron OptiMization (IRON MOM) is a paper-based toolkit that includes clinical pathways and educational resources to guide clinicians and expectant mothers through diagnosis and management of iron deficiency. The research is published in PLOS Medicine, and compares rates of ferritin testing, a blood cell protein that contains iron, in the obstetric clinics at Toronto’s St. Michael’s Hospital before and after the implementation of the IRON MOM toolkit. Ferritin tests help obstetricians understand how much iron is being stored in the body.

IRON MOM is designed to provide guidance and help women feel empowered to speak out to their doctors to ensure they’re receiving enough iron, according to Michelle Sholzberg, co-lead author of the study and a hematologist at St. Michael’s.

Just one year after the toolkit was implemented, the team found an almost 10 times increase in the average monthly rate of ferritin testing in the obstetric clinics at St. Michael’s. That’s not all. They also found a significant decrease in the risk of anemia, a condition in which the body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues, and those who required blood transfusions before and after pregnancy to improve their red blood cell count. “IRON MOM demonstrated that priority setting and simple process changes in patient management can have a large impact on key clinical outcomes,” says Jameel Abdulrehman, MD, co-lead author of the study.

The researchers say these results provide support for expanding IRON MOM into other clinics and institutions, and are currently working on the development of an IRON MOM smartphone app that would make the toolkit available to all women and clinicians in Canada.

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