Low iron in pregnancy and postpartum
Updated: Sep 14, 2021
Having struggled with iron deficiency and the symptoms that come along with that, I understand how crucial it is in recognizing the signs and symptoms and taking a proper iron supplement. I remember the days of complete exhaustion, foggy brain, emotional roller coasters and that unsettling feeling of almost passing out whenever I got up too quickly. Being a busy working mom with three kiddos, I think I just assumed this was part of #busymomfatigue. It got to a point where I knew something wasn't right...my intuition was telling me it was more than just normal exhaustion from everyday life and I needed to get it checked. When I received my lab results back, my ferritin level was 12 when it should have been 40+! It was all making sense now.
The trouble with iron supplements is they can cause nasty side effects like stomach discomfort and can add up when you have to purchase them on a regular basis.
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Whats the scoop on pregnancy/birth and low iron-
Iron is a mineral vital to the proper function of hemoglobin, a protein needed to transport oxygen in the blood. Iron also has a role in a variety of other important processes in the body. The benefits of iron often go unnoticed until you're not getting enough (I can speak from my own personal experience on this one!) Pregnancy increases your body’s demand for iron, putting you at risk for iron deficiency, which can sometimes lead to iron-deficiency anemia. This is when the body doesn’t have enough iron to produce a chemical called hemoglobin, which it needs to make red blood cells that deliver oxygen to your entire body.
But even after pregnancy, your iron stores may be deficient, or lower than they should be.
Oftentimes it's hard to tell if you're iron deficient or just dealing with the normal and common symptoms of pregnancy or postpartum....feeling more tired than normal, or just more out of breath. It’s a good idea to talk to your midwife or care provider if you are experiencing any of the following symptoms;
feeling weak and/or getting tired more easily
feeling dizzy or faint
feeling especially grumpy or cranky
having trouble focusing or concentrating
having trouble focusing or concentrating The amount of iron most people need varies by age and other factors. But most premenopausal women should get about 15 mg of iron per day, and pregnant and nursing women need at least 30 mg. Talk to your doctor/midwife about how much iron you should be adding into your diet or getting tests for iron deficiency. What might increase my risk of having anemia?
A vegetarian or vegan diet
Vitamin D deficiency may also increase the risk of anemia since vitamin D plays an important role in iron absorption. Because of our long winters, this can include most people who live in Canada!
A multiple pregnancy (twins or triplets) --- the demands for iron are even higher than during a pregnancy with one baby.
It can take up to 18 months for the body to fully recover from a pregnancy, so two (or more) pregnancies less than a year apart can make it hard to maintain good iron stores.
People who have very heavy menstrual periods often have low iron because they lose a lot of blood every month. If you had heavy periods before becoming pregnant, you may be at higher risk of becoming anemic during pregnancy.
If you are anemic during pregnancy you are also more likely to be anemic postpartum.
If you have a postpartum hemorrhage (losing too much blood after birth), you may be at higher risk for becoming anemic.
When in doubt, its always best to speak to your health care professional to discuss testing and supplementation. If you are already taking an iron supplement and find that its causing stomach issues, try out Lucky Iron Fish and let me know what you think! https://luckyironfish.com/?rfsn=6074185.aec1ea