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Iron Deficiency May Increase Depression Risk During Pregnancy

While there are many important things to keep in mind for a healthy pregnancy, one thing that could be crucial is getting enough iron: findings published in the Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada indicate maternal iron deficiency is associated with a greater risk of depression during middle to late pregnancy. The study included data from the medical records of 142 pregnant women, aged 18 to 25, who visited the Women's Health Concerns Clinic at St. Joseph’s Healthcare in Hamilton, Ontario between 2009 and 2016. The women had their blood ferritin levels measured to assess their iron status during the second half of their pregnancy and were categorized as “iron deficient” (ferritin levels of less than 12 µg/L) or “iron sufficient.” The women also completed the Edinburgh Postnatal Depression Scale (EPDS), a questionnaire that screens for symptoms of depression and anxiety during pregnancy and the first year after pregnancy. Researchers used the EPDS scores to determine how likely the women were to develop depression during pregnancy and compared that data to their iron status, finding that:

  • On average, EPDS scores were significantly higher in women with iron deficiency (10.14) than in women who were iron-sufficient (7.87).
  • Based on the EPDS scores, the risk of developing depression during pregnancy was more than twice as high in iron-deficient women compared with iron-sufficient women.

Although the relationship between iron status and risk of pregnancy-related depression is still unclear, these findings add to the evidence that iron may play a role in women’s mental health during pregnancy. Iron’s importance in pregnancy doesn’t stop there, though—maternal iron deficiency has been associated with low birth weights and low maternal iron intake has been associated with increased autism risk. To keep your iron status up, look to red meat, poultry, fish, legumes, leafy greens, and dried fruit. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends that pregnant women take a supplement providing 30 to 60 mg of elemental iron per day.

Source: Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology Canada

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