News and info hub

The Dangers of Low Iron During Pregnancy

Iron is a mineral naturally present in many foods, added to some food products, and available as a dietary supplement. 1 As an essential component of your red blood cells, iron helps transfer oxygen from your lungs to the cells in your body, which keeps them healthy and helps them function. 1


What is iron deficiency?

When the amount of iron in your body is inadequate to meet the requirements of your body's processes, you can have low levels of iron. This condition is known as Iron Deficiency Anaemia.  2 Your iron levels can become low when: 2,3

Low iron levels can cause you to become iron deficient, which is one of the leading contributors to the global burden of disease. 3 While anyone can become iron deficient, some people are at a higher risk than others, such as: 2

Why is low iron during pregnancy dangerous?

Pregnant women must maintain adequate iron levels for themselves and their unborn babies during pregnancy. Maternal plasma and blood volumes are increased during pregnancy. This is necessary for both the mother and child's metabolic and oxygen delivery needs. 5 Additionally, the placenta, which provides oxygen and nutrients to an unborn baby, is a highly metabolically active organ with large iron requirements. 5

Therefore, having low iron levels or being iron deficient during pregnancy can negatively affect the health of mothers and their unborn babies, both in utero and later in life: 4,6,7

Iron deficiency danger to mothers

Iron deficiency danger to infants

  • Increased risk of developing a perinatal infection as a result of poor immune function, pre-eclampsia and bleeding
  • Increased risk of experiencing post-partum cognitive impairment, as well as emotional and behavioural difficulties
  • Adverse perinatal outcomes with significant mortality risks, such as intrauterine growth abnormalities
  • Increased risk of premature labour, placental abruption and peripartum blood loss
  • Increased risk of perinatal and neonatal mortality
  • Increased risk of being born premature and at a low birth weight
    Increased risk of developmental difficulties involving cognitive, social-emotional and adaptive functions
  • Developmental delays in speech and motor development, as well as psychomotor and mental development

What does this mean for you?


In short

Iron is an essential mineral for the health and functioning of your body’s cells. If your iron levels are too low to support your body, you can become iron deficient. Pregnant women are at a higher risk of iron deficiency, which can be dangerous to them and their unborn babies, both in utero and later in life. This is why it’s so crucial for pregnant women to monitor their iron levels and consult with their healthcare professionals throughout their pregnancy.

Download our Pregnancy Guide for helpful information that covers other pregnancy topics to support you with your pregnancy.


 1. National Institutes of Health. Iron [online]. 2022, Apr 05 [cited 2022, Oct 14]. Retrieved from: URL:
2. Abbaspour N, Hurrell R, Kelishadi R. Review on iron and its importance for human health. Res J Med Sci 2014;19(2):164.
3. Pasricha SR, Tye-Din J, Muckenthaler MU, Swinkels DW. Iron deficiency. Lancet 2021;397(10270):233-48.
4. James AH. Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy. Obst Gynecol 2021;138(4):663-74.
5. Georgieff MK. Iron deficiency in pregnancy. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2020;223(4):516-24.
6. Abu-Ouf NM, Jan MM. The impact of maternal iron deficiency and iron deficiency anemia on child’s health. Saudi Med J 2015;36(2):146.
7. Pavord S, Myers B, Robinson S, Allard S, Strong J, Oppenheimer C, et al. UK guidelines on the management of iron deficiency in pregnancy. Br J Haematol 2012;156(5):588-600.
8. Di Renzo GC, Spano F, Giardina I, Brillo E, Clerici G, Roura LC. Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy. Women Health 2015;11(6):891-900.