HealthDay News — Taking iron supplements during pregnancy doesn’t appear to significantly change any health outcomes for mother or infant, results of two reviews suggest.

The findings on pregnant women were released in the Annals of Internal Medicine. A second review — this one on infants and toddlers — found no evidence that iron supplements improved growth or development. The findings on children were published in Pediatrics.

Both conclusions come from a U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) review of the latest research on iron supplementation and screening for pregnant women, babies, and young children. The USPSTF determined that there isn’t enough evidence to recommend that pregnant women or infants and children receive iron supplements or be screened for iron deficiencies.

But, they also noted there isn’t enough evidence to recommend against either practice. The recommendations regarding prenatal supplements are an unchanged update from those in 2006. What’s new is that this study also finds no evidence to support routine screening.

To update a 2006 systematic review by the USPSTF on screening and supplementation for iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy, Amy G. Cantor, MD, MPH, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology and family medicine at the Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, and colleagues analyzed the evidence from 11 trials on pregnant women routinely taking iron supplements.

Supplements didn’t affect women’s quality of life or rates of cesarean deliveries, underweight newborns, preterm birth, or infant death. Women’s iron levels improved with supplements — but whether or not there is a benefit from this change is unclear, reported the investigators.

The findings in infants and toddlers were similar to those for pregnant women, according to Marian McDonagh, PharmD, a professor of epidemiology at the Oregon Health & Science University. To review the evidence regarding the benefits and harms of screening and routine IDA supplementation, the research team reviewed 10 trials they identified that measured effects of iron supplements in children aged 6 months to 2 years.

“Although some evidence on supplementation for IDA in young children indicates improvements in hematologic values, evidence on clinical outcomes is lacking,” noted the study authors.


  1. Cantor AG et al. Ann Intern Med. 2015; doi: 10.7326/M14-2932
  2. McDonagh MS et al. Pediatrics. 2015; doi: 10.1542/peds.2014-3979