Anemia doubles risk of death for pregnant women, study finds

Story highlights

  • New research used one of the largest available datasets on pregnant women
  • One common form of anemia among pregnant women is iron-deficient anemia

(CNN)Anemia is emerging as a threat that can double the risk of death in pregnant women, according to a new study.

The research, published Tuesday in the British medical journal The Lancet Global Health, established a relationship between severe anemia and maternal death using one of the largest available datasets on pregnant women. It drew on information collected from 29 countries by the World Health Organization.
    The goal was to explore whether there was an independent relationship between death and the condition of severe anemia, in which a person has a very low red blood cell count, said Jahnavi Daru, lead study author and a doctoral research fellow at Queen Mary University of London.
    "There may be a relationship, but there were never enough numbers of outcomes [to establish it], because death as an outcome in pregnancy is very rare, said Daru"
    Of the 312,281 pregnancies studied, 4,189 were identified as cases with severe anemia after accounting for other risk factors. Among those cases, there were 341 deaths. The study authors ran the numbers through two statistical models and found that both suggested a link between severe anemia and maternal death.

    Preventable health problems

    Previous studies could not attribute with confidence whether maternal death was caused by anemia or another medical condition. The results of the new study indicated that -- when all known contributing factors are controlled for -- the odds of maternal death are doubled in mothers with anemia.