Iron deficiency, antenatal depression linked


Women who are iron deficient during pregnancy many be two and a half times more likely to develop prenatal depression, a study suggests

While there is a known link between iron deficiency and depression in the general population, research is lacking in regard to whether the link is also present in pregnant women, the Canadian researchers say – of particular concern given iron deficiency is relatively common during pregnancy, affecting up to 22% of women.

The researchers looked at the medical records of 142 women at an Ontario hospital between 2009 and 2016, during middle to late pregnancy.

They categorised the women as either iron deficient (ferritin <12 µg/L) or iron sufficient. Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale scores and the odds of developing antenatal depression were then compared.

Iron deficient women scored significantly higher on the EPDS (10.14 ± 5.69 vs. 7.87 ± 5.75; P = 0.03) and were more likely to develop antenatal depression (45% vs. 25%; P = 0.02) compared with women who were not.

The odds of developing antenatal depression were two and one half times higher among iron deficient women (adjusted OR 2.51; 95% CI 1.14–5.52).

Publishing their findings in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada, the researchers say the results require replication, and this type of study cannot show cause and effect.

But “these findings suggest that iron deficiency is associated with higher levels of depression during pregnancy,” they say.

The researchers suggest that screening pregnant women for iron deficiencies could also help indicate their risk of developing prenatal depression.

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