Pregnant women with severe anaemia are twice as likely to die during or shortly after their pregnancy compared to women who don’t have the condition, a new study has found.
The global study, which looked at data from 325,000 pregnancies in 29 countries, revealed that if a pregnant woman develops severe anaemia at any point during pregnancy or within seven days after delivery, they are at a much higher risk of dying.
The study, published in The Lancet Global Health, investigated women from Latin America, Africa, Western Pacific, Eastern Mediterranean and South East Asia, using data from the World Health Organisation’s multi-country survey.
The final analysis focused on 12,470 women, with over 4,000 of them found to have severe anaemia, defined as a haemoglobin level of less than 70g/l.
There were 146 maternal deaths among this group, and the anaemic women were just under twice (1.86 times) as likely to die as those without the condition.
The study is observational and a direct causal relationship between severe anaemia and maternal death cannot be proven, as other factors may come into play, the researchers noted.
However, they concluded that prevention and treatment of anaemia during pregnancy and postpartum should remain a public health priority.
The study is the first to look into factors that influence development of anaemia in pregnancy, such as blood loss or malaria infection.
The researchers urged that nurses focus their attention on preventing anaemia in mothers, using a range of approaches and not just iron supplements.
Lead author Dr Jahnavi Daru, a clinical researcher from Queen Mary University of London, said: ‘Anaemia in pregnancy is one of the most common medical problems pregnant women encounter both in low and high income countries.
‘We’ve now shown that if a woman develops severe anaemia at any point in her pregnancy or in the seven days after delivery, she is at a higher risk of dying.’
‘Clinicians, policy makers and healthcare professionals should now focus their attention on preventing anaemia, using a multifaceted approach, not just hoping that iron tablets will solve the problem,’ Dr Daru said.