Iron Deficiency in Women's Health: New Insights into Diagnosis and Treatment

Adv Ther. 2022 Jun;39(6):2438-2451. doi: 10.1007/s12325-022-02157-7. Epub 2022 Apr 30.


Iron deficiency (ID), with or without anemia, is commonly found worldwide and affects the health and wellbeing of pregnant and nonpregnant women. Symptoms of ID- which include fatigue, pica (ice craving), restless legs syndrome, poor concentration and work function, increased susceptibility to infection, and cardiovascular stress- can cause significant morbidity and reduced quality of life. The etiologies of iron deficiency in women are usually specific to each community. In the developing world, iron deficiency is usually associated with poor iron intake and parasitic infections, whereas in higher income regions, iron deficiency is typically the result of heavy, abnormal uterine bleeding, and pregnancy. Iron-poor diets and poor iron absorption resulting from gut disorders can also play a role. Diagnosis of iron deficiency is usually straightforward and characterized by a low ferritin level; however, the diagnosis can be challenging in women with concomitant inflammatory disorders, in which case a low percent transferrin saturation, performed after an overnight fast, can inform on the need for iron. Therapy is frequently initiated with oral iron salts; however, use of these oral regimens is commonly associated with adverse events, mostly gastrointestinal in nature, that have been shown to adversely impact compliance, continuation, and the achievement of therapeutic goals. A further impediment to the effectiveness of oral iron is its poor absorption because of comorbidity (i.e., celiac disease, gastritis, etc.), surgery (bariatric), or physiologic inhibitory mechanisms. As such, intravenous (IV) iron regimens are increasingly being used to treat ID, as such regimens have been shown to avoid the gastrointestinal adverse events commonly associated with oral regimens. Indeed, IV iron has been shown to provide adequate iron replacement in women with functional iron deficiencies as well as those with ID resulting from inflammatory disorders- patients often resistant to oral iron therapy. More recent IV iron regimens have been shown to provide iron replacement in a safe and effective manner, being associated with more salutary adverse event profiles than earlier IV iron regimens. In fact, these iron regimens can provide a complete replacement dose in a single 15-60-min visit.

Keywords: Abnormal uterine bleeding; Anemia; Ferric iron; Ferrous iron; Heavy menstrual bleeding; Hepcidin; Iron cycle; Iron deficiency; Leiomyoma; Pregnancy complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / diagnosis
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / drug therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iron / therapeutic use
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Pregnancy
  • Quality of Life
  • Women's Health


  • Iron