Evidence Insufficient to Screen for Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy

USPSTF Final Recommendation Also Says Evidence Insufficient to Screen Young Children

September 09, 2015 11:22 am News Staff

On Sept. 8, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) released its final recommendation statements on screening for the prevention of iron deficiency anemia (IDA) in pregnant women(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org) and children ages 6 to 24 months.(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org)

[Little girl with nose pressed against mom's pregnant belly]

The USPSTF concluded that there is not enough evidence(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org) to determine the balance of benefits and harms of routine screening for IDA in pregnant women or for the use of iron supplements during pregnancy to prevent adverse maternal health and birth outcomes, with both recommendations receiving I statements.(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org)

Additionally, the task force reviewed evidence(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org) on the benefits and harms of screening for IDA in young children ages 6 to 24 months. It found there is not enough evidence to determine whether doing so provides benefits and issued an I statement.

"We wanted to see whether general screening for IDA and the use of iron supplements improves the health of mothers and their babies," said USPSTF member Francisco Garcia, M.D., M.P.H., in a news release.(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org) "However, today, there is simply not enough high-quality evidence to make a recommendation, and we are calling for more research on IDA screening and iron supplementation among pregnant women."

Story highlights
  • The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) recently posted its final recommendation statement that cited insufficient evidence to recommend screening pregnant women for iron deficiency anemia.
  • Just as it did in 2006, the USPSTF found insufficient evidence to determine the benefits and harms of iron supplementation in pregnant women.
  • A second final recommendation found insufficient evidence to assess the benefits and harms of screening children ages 6 to 24 months for iron deficiency anemia.

The task force also is calling for more research about whether screening young children improves their growth and development.

The AAFP mirrored the USPSTF with its own recommendations on IDA.

Update of 2006 Recommendations

In its 2006 recommendation(www.uspreventiveservicestaskforce.org) on screening asymptomatic pregnant women for iron deficiency, the USPSTF found fair evidence that treating those with iron deficiency anemia resulted in moderate benefits in health outcomes. Based on these findings, USPSTF members concluded that the potential benefits of routine screening for iron deficiency anemia in asymptomatic pregnant women outweighed the potential harms. In 2006, The AAFP agreed with the USPSTF and issued a parallel recommendation.

However, the USPSTF's latest evidence review,(www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov) "found no good- or fair-quality studies on the benefits or harms of screening that would be applicable to the current U.S. pregnant population."

Regarding iron supplementation in pregnant women, both in 2006 and in the recent final recommendation statement, the USPSTF found insufficient evidence to determine the benefits and harms of routine iron supplementation in this population.

And finally, the task force's 2006 recommendation and its current recommendation statement on screening children ages 6 to 24 months for iron deficiency anemia found insufficient evidence to determine its benefits and harms.

In an AAFP News story published April 6, when these were draft recommendations, Jennifer Frost, M.D., medical director for the AAFP Health of the Public and Science Division, pointed out that screening children for IDA is still common practice, as the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends routine screening for anemia in all infants at 12 months of age.

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