1. An assessment of iron and folic acid status, blood thick film and haemoglobin (Hb) electrophoresis was performed on 126 pregnant women (and their newborn infants) and in ninety-five menstruating women in Cotonou (Benin).
2. Anaemia (according to the World Health Organization (1972)) was observed in 55% of pregnant women and in 39% of menstruating women.
3. Fe-deficiency was defined as a low serum ferritin concentration (12μg/l or less), combined with a low transferrin saturation (less than 16%) or a high erythrocyte protoporphyrin level (more than 3 μg/g Hb), or both. A moderate elevation in the serum ferritin concentration (between 13 and 50 μg/l), associated with a low transferrin saturation or a high erythrocyte protoporphyrin level, or both, indicated Fe-deficiency in an inflammatory context. Fe-deficiency was present in 73% of pregnant women and in 41% of menstruating women.
4. Folate deficiency (defined as erythrocyte folate below 160 μg/l) was observed in 45% of pregnant women.
5. In pregnant women, anaemia was associated with Fe-deficiency in 83% of cases and with folate deficiency in 48% of cases.
6. Haemoglobinopathies were mainly heterozygous and did not seem to contribute significantly to anaemia. Intensity of malaria was not related to Hb level, but Plasmodium falcipurum was found in 99% of subjects.
7. Hb concentration and mean corpuscular volume were significantly lower in babies born of Fe-deficient mothers than in babies born of Fe-sufficient mothers. Hb concentration in newborn infants was positively correlated with maternal serum ferritin.