Hepcidin is the master regulator of systemic iron bioavailability in humans. This review examines primary research articles that assessed hepcidin during pregnancy and postpartum and report its relationship to maternal and infant iron status and birth outcomes; areas for future research are also discussed. A systematic search of the databases Medline and Cumulative Index to Nursing and Allied Health returned 16 primary research articles including 10 human and six animal studies. Collectively, the results indicate that hepcidin is lower during pregnancy than in a non-pregnant state, presumably to ensure greater iron bioavailability to the mother and fetus. Pregnant women with undetectable serum hepcidin transferred a greater quantity of maternally ingested iron to their fetus compared to women with detectable hepcidin, indicating that maternal hepcidin in part determines the iron bioavailability to the fetus. However, inflammatory states, including preeclampsia, malaria infection, and obesity were associated with higher hepcidin during pregnancy compared to healthy controls, suggesting that maternal and fetal iron bioavailability could be compromised in such conditions. Future studies should examine the relative contribution of maternal versus
fetal hepcidin to the control of placental iron transfer as well as optimizing maternal and fetal iron bioavailability in pregnancies complicated by inflammation.