To report postnatal iron nutritional status of Hong Kong Chinese women during the first 6 months postpartum.
A longitudinal study examining postnatal calcium and iron status of Hong Kong Chinese breastfeeding and formula-feeding women was conducted during 1998. Postpartum women aged 20-40 y, with no bone or blood disorders were recruited and interviewed at 0 (baseline), 2, 6 weeks, 3 and 6 months postpartum. Dietary intake was assessed by a 3 day dietary record and cross checked by a 24 h recall. Complete blood count and serum ferritin level were measured to assess anaemia and iron status. In this report, subjects were divided into an anaemic group (haemoglobin level < 10 g/dl) and a non-anaemic group (haemoglobin level > or = 10 g/dl) according to baseline haemoglobin levels.
At baseline, 13/47 (27.7%) subjects were anaemic. Two of these 13 anaemic subjects were still anaemic at 3 and 6 months postpartum. Anaemic subjects showed significantly (P < 0.01) greater amounts of blood loss and a higher rate of primary postpartum haemorrhage than the non-anaemic subjects. Daily food intake and dietary nutrient intake did not differ significantly between the two groups. During the first 6 weeks postpartum, subjects in both groups consumed more poultry and egg, and comparable amounts of meat, compared with women in the Hong Kong general population. Iron and vitamin C intakes for the majority of subjects reached 60% of the US Recommended Daily Allowances. Regression analysis suggested that the rate of change in haemoglobin level in the first 6 weeks postpartum was positively correlated with baseline MCV level and serum ferritin level, but negatively correlated with baseline haemoglobin level.
Blood loss at delivery is an important factor for postpartum anaemia. Postnatal recovery of iron status of this group of women appeared to be more related to physiological factors than to dietary factors. The role of diet as well as other physiological changes in postpartum women requires further investigation. Finding ways to minimise blood loss at delivery could be the most practical strategy to reduce the rate of postpartum anaemia.
CSM was supported by a research studentship from the Research Grants Council, Hong Kong.