Hemoglobin, serum iron, transferrin saturation and ferritin were measured on paired maternal and cord blood samples in 54 anemic (hemoglobin < 110 g/L) and 22 non-anemic (hemoglobin > or = 110 g/L) pregnant women at term gestation. The levels of hemoglobin, serum iron, transferrin saturation and ferritin were significantly low in the cord blood of anemic women, suggesting that iron supply to the fetus was reduced in maternal anemia. The linear relationships of these parameters with both maternal hemoglobin and maternal serum ferritin indicated that the fetus extracted iron in amounts proportional to the levels available in the mother. Infants of mothers with moderate and severe anemia had significantly lower cord serum ferritin levels and hence poor iron stores at birth. It is concluded that iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy adversely affects the iron endowment of the infant at birth.