• Intravenous iron sucrose;
  • oral ferrous sulphate;
  • postpartum anaemia

Objective  Postpartum iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) is common in women. Most women are treated with either oral iron supplementation or blood transfusion. Hence, the aim of our study was to compare the effect of treatment with either oral ferrous sulphate or intravenous ferrous sucrose on postpartum IDA.

Design  A single centre, prospective randomised controlled trial.

Setting  Women’s Centre, John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, UK.

Population  Forty-four women with haemoglobin (Hb) of <9 g/dl and ferritin of <15 microgram/l at 24–48 hours postdelivery.

Methods  Women were randomised to receive either oral ferrous sulphate 200 mg twice daily for 6 weeks (group O) or intravenous ferrous sucrose 200 mg (Venofer; Vifor International Ltd, St Gallen, Switzerland), two doses given on days 2 and 4 following recruitment (group I). Results were analysed by the Students t-test, chi-square test and analysis of variance.

Main outcome measures  Hb, haematocrit, red cell indices, ferritin and serum iron levels were measured on days 0, 5, 14 and 40.

Results  By day 5, the Hb level in women treated with intravenous iron had risen from 7.3 ± 0.9 to 9.9 ± 0.7 g/dl, while there was no change in those treated with oral iron. Women treated with intravenous iron had significantly higher Hb levels on days 5 and 14 (P < 0.01) than those treated with oral iron; although by day 40, there was no significant difference between the two groups. Throughout the study, ferritin levels rose rapidly in those treated with intravenous iron and remained significantly higher than in those treated with oral iron (P < 0.01).

Conclusions  Intravenous iron sucrose increases the Hb level more rapidly than oral ferrous sulphate in women with postpartum IDA. It also appears to replenish iron stores more rapidly. However, this study was not large enough to address the safety of this strategy.