Prevalence & consequences of anaemia in pregnancy

Indian J Med Res. 2009 Nov;130(5):627-33.


Prevalence of anaemia in India is among the highest in the world. Prevalence of anaemia is higher among pregnant women and preschool children. Even among higher income educated segments of population about 50 per cent of children, adolescent girls and pregnant women are anaemic. Inadequate dietary iron, folate intake due to low vegetable consumption, perhaps low B12 intake and poor bioavailability of dietary iron from the fibre, phytate rich Indian diets are the major factors responsible for high prevalence of anaemia. Increased requirement of iron during growth and pregnancy and chronic blood loss contribute to higher prevalence in specific groups. In India, anaemia is directly or indirectly responsible for 40 per cent of maternal deaths. There is 8 to 10-fold increase in MMR when the Hb falls below 5 g/dl. Early detection and effective management of anaemia in pregnancy can contribute substantially to reduction in maternal mortality. Maternal anaemia is associated with poor intrauterine growth and increased risk of preterm births and low birth weight rates. This in turn results in higher perinatal morbidity and mortality, and higher infant mortality rate. A doubling of low birth weight rate and 2 to 3 fold increase in the perinatal mortality rates is seen when the Hb is <8 g/dl. Intrauterine growth retardation and low birth weight inevitably lead to poor growth trajectory in infancy, childhood and adolescence and contribute to low adult height. Parental height and maternal weight are determinants of intrauterine growth and birth weight. Thus maternal anaemia contributes to intergenerational cycle of poor growth in the offspring. Early detection and effective management of anaemia in pregnancy can lead to substantial reduction in undernutrition in childhood, adolescence and improvement in adult height.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / epidemiology*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / immunology
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / prevention & control
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / administration & dosage
  • Humans
  • India / epidemiology
  • Iron, Dietary / administration & dosage
  • National Health Programs
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic / epidemiology*
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic / immunology
  • Pregnancy Complications, Hematologic / prevention & control
  • Pregnancy Outcome
  • Risk Factors


  • Iron, Dietary
  • Folic Acid