Prevalence of postpartum anaemia and iron deficiency by serum ferritin, soluble transferrin receptor and total body iron, and associations with ethnicity and clinical factors: a Norwegian population-based cohort study

J Nutr Sci. 2022 Jun 13;11:e46. doi: 10.1017/jns.2022.45. eCollection 2022.


Worldwide, there are limited data on the prevalence of postpartum anaemia and iron status. The aims of the present study were to assess the prevalence of anaemia and iron deficiency (ID) by three iron indicators 14 weeks postpartum, their relations to haemoglobin (Hb) and associations with ethnicity and clinical factors in a multi-ethnic population. We conducted a population-based cohort study of 573 women followed from early pregnancy. The prevalence of postpartum anaemia (Hb <12·0 g/dl) was 25 %. ID prevalence varied from 39 % by serum ferritin (SF <15 μg/l), to 19 % by soluble transferrin receptor (sTfR >4·4 mg/l) and 22 % by total body iron (TBI < 0 mg/kg). The mean Hb concentration was 12·8 g/dl in women with no ID, 12·6 g/dl in those with ID by SF only and 11·6 g/dl in those with ID by SF, sTfR and TBI. ID by sTfR and TBI defined by the current threshold values probably identified a more severe iron-deficient population compared with ID assessed by SF. Compared with Western Europeans, the prevalence of anaemia was at least the double in ethnic minorities (26-40 % v. 14 %; P < 0·01-0·05), and the prevalence of ID by sTfR and TBI, but not of ID by SF < 15 μg/l, was significantly higher in some minority groups. After adjustment for covariates, only South Asians had lower Hb and higher sTfR concentration. Insufficient iron intake, gestational anaemia or ID, and postpartum haemorrhage were associated with lower postpartum Hb concentration and poorer iron status.

Keywords: Anaemia; Cohort; Ethnic minorities; Iron deficiency; Postpartum iron status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anemia*
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / complications
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency* / epidemiology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Ferritins
  • Hemoglobins / analysis
  • Humans
  • Iron / metabolism
  • Iron Deficiencies*
  • Norway / epidemiology
  • Postpartum Period
  • Pregnancy
  • Prevalence
  • Receptors, Transferrin


  • Hemoglobins
  • Receptors, Transferrin
  • Ferritins
  • Iron