THURSDAY, Sept. 23, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Less than half of individuals have their ferritin levels checked during pregnancy, and among those who do, half have low iron levels, according to a study published online Aug. 30 in Blood Advances.

Jennifer Teichman, M.D., from the University of Toronto, and colleagues used data from 44,552 pregnant patients with prenatal testing at community laboratories in Ontario, Canada, to determine the prevalence of ferritin testing over five years, as well as the prevalence and severity of iron deficiency (ID), and to identify clinical and demographic variables associated with ID screening.

The researchers found that 59.4 percent of patients had ferritin checked during pregnancy; among these patients, 71.4 percent of ferritin tests were ordered in the first trimester when the risk for ID is lowest. Lab results showed that 25.2 percent of patients were iron-insufficient (30 to 44 μg/L), 52.8 percent were iron-deficient (≤29 μg/L) at least once in pregnancy, and 8.3 percent were anemic (hemoglobin <105 g/L). Among anemic patients, a subsequent ferritin test in pregnancy was conducted for 22 percent in the lowest anemia severity category to 67 percent in the highest anemia severity category. There was a negative association between lower annual household income and odds of a ferritin test. Compared with the highest income quintile, the odds of ferritin testing for patients in the first, second, and fourth quintiles were 0.83, 0.82, and 0.86, respectively.

“These data highlight gaps in prenatal care and issues of health equity that warrant harmonization of obstetrical guidelines to recommend routine ferritin testing in pregnancy,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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