A randomized trial of oral iron on tests of short-term memory and attention span in young pregnant women

J Adolesc Health Care. 1986 Jan;7(1):44-8. doi: 10.1016/s0197-0070(86)80094-8.


Recent studies suggest that infant behavior and psychological test performance are impaired by iron deficiency and may be improved by iron. Comparable studies have not been performed in older populations. Young women early in pregnancy whose nutritional intake may be impaired by poverty constitute a high-risk population. Women aged 14-24 years coming for prenatal care at or before 16 weeks gestation whose hematocrits were greater than or equal to 31% were randomized in a double-blind trial to receive vitamins supplemented with iron (experimental group) or vitamins alone (controls). Hematologic status and tests of short-term memory and attention span were assessed at entry and conclusion of the one-month treatment period. The experimental group showed significant improvement on the most sensitive measure of short-term memory and three subtests. On comparison of the change between initial and final scores, the experimental group showed significant or borderline greater improvement than controls on three tests. These results indicated a beneficial effect of iron therapy on psychometric test-score performance.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Hypochromic / drug therapy*
  • Anemia, Hypochromic / psychology
  • Attention / drug effects*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Ferrous Compounds / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Iron / therapeutic use*
  • Memory, Short-Term / drug effects*
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy Complications / drug therapy*
  • Pregnancy Complications / psychology
  • Psychological Tests
  • Random Allocation


  • Ferrous Compounds
  • Iron
  • ferrous fumarate