To investigate the impact of prenatal maternal iron deficiency (ID) on cord blood serum ferritin (CBSF) concentration and infant cognitive and motor development.


Our prospective cohort study included 636 mother-singleton child pairs from 828 eligible pregnant women who were enrolled during their first antenatal care (ANC) visit in Allada, Benin, into a clinical trial comparing the efficacy of mefloquine and sulfadoxine-pyrimethamine. Venous blood samples of women were assessed for ferritin and hemoglobin concentrations at the first and second ANC visits (occurring at least 1-month apart) and at delivery. Women were prescribed daily iron and folic acid supplements throughout pregnancy. Hematologic examinations were repeated for cord blood at birth. At age 1 year, cognitive and motor functions of children were assessed by using the Mullen Scales of Early Learning.


The prevalence of prenatal ID at first and second ANC visits, and at delivery was 30.5%, 34.0%, and 28.4%, respectively. CBSF concentrations were similar between ID and non-ID pregnant women. Neither prenatal ID nor CBSF concentration was associated with poor cognitive or gross motor function of children at age 1 year. CBSF concentrations were lower among mothers who had ID anemia (IDA) at delivery compared with non-IDA pregnant women (adjusted mean difference: –0.2 [95% confidence interval: –0.4 to –0.0]).


In a malaria-endemic region, ID in pregnancy in the context of iron supplementation is neither associated with CBSF concentration nor with infant cognitive and motor development. Prenatal IDA around the time of delivery is associated with lower CBSF concentrations.

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