Studies Compare Iron and Lactoferrin Supplements For Treatment of Pregnancy Associated Anemia 


Pregnancy Associated Anemia (PAA) is a global health issue that can lead to serious issues for both the mother and the baby if it is not treated properly or early enough.

So why is it so common for women to develop anemia during pregnancy? There are several different types of nutrient-deficient anemia, and understanding the deficiency can help you prevent issues and treat symptoms accordingly. Here we are speaking specifically about PAA.

During pregnancy a woman’s blood volume increases 20%-30%, increasing the need for available iron and other nutrients to increase the available amount of hemoglobin. Iron is a mineral that is essential to the production of hemoglobin through bone marrow (bone marrow is where hemoglobin is produced). and its role in the body is to deliver oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the organs in the body. When the iron stores in the body are not available to be transferred to the bone marrow, this oxygen transferring system becomes less efficient, and the mother will show symptoms of fatigue and lowered immunity.

PAA is an anemia of inflammation, commonly called iron-deficiency anemia, and it is more common for women once they hit the second and third trimester. PAA can increase the risk of the baby developing anemia, too. For women who have severe anemia (particularly in the first two trimesters), this can lead to serious health risks for the women and the baby.


Common Symptoms of Anemia

There’s a lot of newness happening to body during pregnancy, so initial symptoms of anemia are likely to go unnoticed. If symptoms worsen as the mother enters the second and third trimester, there could be some serious health concerns for the mother and potential birth defects for the baby. This is why it is essential that the mother keeps up with doctors appointments and pays close attention to her health. Symptoms of anemia include:


  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Foggy brain or trouble concentrating
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor circulation (cold hands and feet)
  • Pale skin, lips and nails
  • Chest pain


Treating Anemia With Lactoferrin

Anemia is often treated with prenatal supplements or specific vitamin B12, iron or folic acid supplements. However, taking these supplements is only helpful if the body is absorbing the nutrients properly. As with iron, sometimes there is plenty of iron present in the body, but it just isn’t being shared with necessary organs properly.

Valenti et al conducted several clinical studies in several hundred pregnant women treating for iron-deficiency anemia (which in view of study results is now specifically considered to be Anemia of Inflammation). Highly purified bovine lactoferrin was the “treatment” and ferrous sulfate (iron) was the control supplement.

Lactoferrin 100 mg versus Iron

pregnancy associated anemia

Pisano, et. al. Biometals 2010; 23:411-417


These studies demonstrated a significant increase in hemoglobin in anemic pregnant women in a 30 day period. Most of the subjects were given 200 mg of bovine lactoferrin daily, and others were given up to 400 mg daily. While this amount is sufficient for daily supplements, other investigators in different disease settings have given up to 6,000 grams daily without observation of any toxicities or adverse reactions.

Lab results also demonstrated the increase in Interleukin 6 (IL-6), a proinflammatory cytokine, with iron supplements but IL-6 decreased with lactoferrin supplements. This is because Iron, a readily oxidisable substance, is quite clearly inflammatory.

These studies have provided a large body of evidence on both the safety and efficacy of highly purified bovine in resolving anemia during pregnancy by non-drug, natural means.

While analyzing the data researchers made a remarkable observation about a variable they had not been looking for: 8 women in the iron supplement test group experienced pregnancy losses (defined as miscarriage and late term stillbirth) while none of the women in the bovine lactoferrin test group experienced a pregnancy loss. It should be noted that part of these extensive studies evaluated anemic pregnant women with a confirmed diagnosis of hereditary thrombophilia plus anemia.

Hereditary thrombophilia is an abnormality in blood coagulation that can cause blood clots to form in blood vessels and is well known to significantly increase the risk of pregnancy complications. Study subjects were randomized to lactoferrin versus iron test groups, and the anemia results confirmed the changes in hemoglobin observed in the other studies of non-thrombophilic women, which was the primary endpoint of the study. Thrombosis during pregnancy is a heightened risk for thrombophilic women, which is a primary reason why this result is so intriguing.

It is still not scientifically known why this statistical difference occurred. Was it a function of proinflammatory iron increasing risk of pregnancy losses? Or was it bovine lactoferrin decreasing the risk? Science has not yet been able to tell us, but now have a very jaded view of administration of iron supplements to anyone at risk of thrombosis.


The Benefits of Lactoferrin Supplements

The effectiveness of bovine lactoferrin wholly depends on the purity of the product itself. Bovine lactoferrin is extracted from cow’s milk, and the vast majority of lactoferrin is extracted specifically from cheese whey. Cheese whey is laiden with all sorts of bacteria, fungi and certain toxins, which compromise the effectiveness of the lactoferrin. If the proper precautions are not taken, the low-quality lactoferrin will pass through your body, affecting nothing along the way.  

Our Acacia Highly Purified Bovine Lactoferrin is virtually endotoxin free which helps to assure that it will not contribute to inflammation as cheese whey does. Treat anemia during pregnancy without harmful side effects. Get your bottle of Acacia now.

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