An extensive literature review was conducted to identify whether iron deficiency, iron-deficiency anemia and anemia from any cause are causally related to low birth weight, preterm birth or perinatal mortality. Strong evidence exists for an association between maternal hemoglobin concentration and birth weight as well as between maternal hemoglobin concentration and preterm birth. It was not possible to determine how much of this association is attributable to iron-deficiency anemia in particular. Minimal values for both low birth weight and preterm birth occurred at maternal hemoglobin concentrations below the current cut-off value for anemia during pregnancy (110 g/L) in a number of studies, particularly those in which maternal hemoglobin values were not controlled for the duration of gestation. Supplementation of anemic or nonanemic pregnant women with iron, folic acid or both does not appear to increase either birth weight or the duration of gestation. However, these studies must be interpreted cautiously because most are subject to a bias toward false-negative findings. Thus, although there may be other reasons to offer women supplemental iron during pregnancy, the currently available evidence from studies with designs appropriate to establish a causal relationship is insufficient to support or reject this practice for the specific purposes of raising birth weight or lowering the rate of preterm birth.
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