Biochemical folate, B12, and iron status of a group of pregnant adolescents accessed through the public health system in southern Ontario

J Adolesc Health. 1995 Jun;16(6):465-74. doi: 10.1016/1054-139X(94)00001-U.


Purpose: This study was designed to estimate the prevalence of biochemical iron, folate, and vitamin B12 depletion among a group of Canadian pregnant adolescents accessed through the Public Health system. Further, the impact of prenatal supplement use, chronologic age, gynecologic age, living arrangement, main source of income, postpartum custody plan, time of entry into prenatal care, and cigarette smoking on laboratory indices of the three nutrients were determined.

Methods: Fifty-eight adolescents (14.5-19.0 years) were interviewed and blood samples were collected at 36 +/- 2 wk gestation.

Results: Thirteen (22%) of the pregnant adolescents had anemia (hemoglobin < 110 g/L) and forty-five (78%) had depleted iron stores (plasma ferritin < 26.6 pmol/L or 12.0 micrograms/L). Twenty-five subjects had plasma B12 values in the sub-optimal range (< 148 pmol/L). Five of the 16 adolescents who infrequently or never consumed a folate-containing supplement had suboptimal erythrocyte folate values. Twenty-four percent of the subjects had hypersegmented neutrophils and of these, all and 71% of subjects had plasma ferritin and B12 concentrations in the suboptimal range, respectively. Self-reported folic acid and B12 supplement intakes were correlated with the corresponding blood values for these nutrients. In contrast, supplement iron use was only weakly, or not at all associated with biochemical indices of iron status.

Conclusions: Data from the present study indicate that plasma B12 and ferritin levels are low in a group of pregnant adolescents. These low values appear to be associated with a high prevalence of hypersegmented neutrophils. Prenatal supplement use appears to reduce the risk of low folate and B12 blood values but not biochemical iron status.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / blood
  • Anthropometry
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / blood*
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / blood
  • Food, Fortified
  • Humans
  • Iron / blood*
  • Life Style
  • Pregnancy
  • Pregnancy in Adolescence / blood*
  • Prenatal Care
  • Smoking
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Vitamin B 12 / blood*
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / blood


  • Folic Acid
  • Iron
  • Vitamin B 12