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Maternal iron intake at mid-pregnancy is associated with reduced fetal growth: results from Mothers and Children’s Environmental Health (MOCEH) study

Ji-Yun Hwang1, Ji-Yeon Lee2, Ki-Nam Kim2, Hyesook Kim2, Eun-Hee Ha3, Hyesook Park3, Mina Ha4, Yangho Kim5, Yun-Chul Hong6 and Namsoo Chang2*

Author affiliations

1 Graduate School of Education, Sangmyung University, Seoul, 110-743, Korea

2 Department of Nutritional Science and Food Management, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, 120-750, Korea

3 Department of Preventive Medicine, College of Medicine, Ewha Womans University, Seoul, 158-710, Korea

4 Department of Preventive Medicine, Dankook University College of Medicine, Cheonan, 330-715, Korea

5 Department of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, Ulsan University Hospital, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Ulsan, 682-060, Korea

6 Department of Preventive Medicine, Seoul National University College of Medicine, Seoul, 110-799, Korea

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Citation and License

Nutrition Journal 2013, 12:38  doi:10.1186/1475-2891-12-38

Published: 2 April 2013



Iron supplementation is a common recommendation for pregnant women to prevent iron deficiency during pregnancy. There is an increasing concern about excessive iron consumption as a general iron prophylaxis by pregnant women without any due consideration about their dietary iron intake or iron status. Our present study investigated the association between total iron intake from diet and supplements and fetal growth in 337 pregnant women at mid-pregnancy in South Korea.


Iron intake from diet and supplements was examined by a 24-hour recall method. Subjects were divided into three groups based on tertiles of total iron intake levels. Fetal biometry was assessed by ultrasonography at mid-pregnancy.


About 99% of the non-supplement users had iron intake below the recommended nutrient intake (RNI) for pregnant women (24 mg), whereas 64.9% of supplement users had iron intake above the upper level (UL) (45 mg). In the babies of mothers in the third tertile of iron intake (>17.04 mg), biparietal diameter, abdominal circumference, and femur length were lower by 0.41 cm (P =0.019), 0.41 cm (P = 0.027), and 0.07 cm (P = 0.051), respectively, than the babies of mothers in the second tertile of iron intake (11.49 ~ 17.04 mg).


These results suggest that excessive maternal iron intake at mid-pregnancy is associated with reduced fetal growth. Iron supplementation for pregnant women should be individualized according to their iron status. Appropriate diet education is needed for pregnant women so that they can consume adequate amounts of iron from food and supplements.

Iron; Pregnancy; Growth; Diet; MOCHE study