Aims/hypothesis: The aim of this study was to prospectively and longitudinally investigate maternal iron status during early to mid-pregnancy, and subsequent risk of gestational diabetes mellitus (GDM), using a comprehensive panel of conventional and novel iron biomarkers.
Methods: A case-control study of 107 women with GDM and 214 controls (matched on age, race/ethnicity and gestational week during blood collection) was conducted within the the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development Fetal Growth Studies-Singleton Cohort (2009-2013), a prospective and multiracial pregnancy cohort. Plasma hepcidin, ferritin and soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR) were measured and sTfR:ferritin ratio was derived, twice before GDM diagnosis (gestational weeks 10-14 and 15-26) and at weeks 23-31 and 33-39. GDM diagnosis was ascertained from medical records. Adjusted ORs (aORs) for GDM were estimated using conditional logistic regression analysis, adjusting for demographics, prepregnancy BMI and other major risk factors.
Results: Hepcidin concentrations during weeks 15-26 were 16% higher among women with GDM vs controls (median 6.4 vs 5.5 ng/ml; p = 0.02 ), and were positively associated with GDM risk; the aOR (95% CI) for highest vs lowest quartile was 2.61 (1.07, 6.36). Ferritin levels were also positively associated with GDM risk; the aOR (95% CI) for highest vs lowest quartile was 2.43 (1.12, 5.28) at weeks 10-14 and 3.95 (1.38, 11.30) at weeks 15-26. The sTfR:ferritin ratio was inversely related to GDM risk; the aOR (95% CI) for highest vs lowest quartile was 0.33 (0.14, 0.80) at weeks 10-14 and 0.15 (0.05, 0.48) at weeks 15-26.
Conclusions/interpretation: Our findings suggest that elevated iron stores may be involved in the development of GDM from as early as the first trimester. This raises potential concerns for the recommendation of routine iron supplementation among iron-replete pregnant women.
Keywords: Ferritin; Gestational diabetes mellitus; Hepcidin; Iron overload; Soluble transferrin receptor; sTfR:ferritin ratio.