Pregnancy and iron homeostasis: an update


Correspondence: KO O'Brien, Division of Nutritional Sciences, Cornell University, Rm 230 Savage, Ithaca, New York 14853, USA. E-mail: Phone: +1-607-255-3743. Fax: +1-607-255-1033.


It has been nearly 15 years since the first review on pregnancy and iron deficiency was published in Nutrition Reviews. Many unresolved issues raised in that seminal review have been addressed. New proteins involved in nonheme and heme iron transport have been identified in the enterocyte, and information on the roles of these proteins in the placenta is evolving. The systemic iron regulatory hormone, hepcidin, has since been identified as a key regulator of iron homeostasis. Additional data on the efficacy and consequences of prenatal iron supplementation are available. Emerging data on developmental changes in iron absorption across early infancy have further emphasized the need to ensure that the iron endowment of the neonate at birth is optimal. This is especially important, given growing evidence linking neonatal iron status with subsequent cognitive and neurobehavioral outcomes. Along with the many advances, new questions and gaps in knowledge have been identified. This review summarizes new data on maternal iron utilization across pregnancy as it impacts the pregnant woman and the iron status of the neonate at birth.