What is iron deficiency?
Iron is the most common nutrient deficiency and not surprisingly, more present in women. Iron is required to make red blood cells AND for those cells to do their job properly which is to circulate oxygen throughout the body. Low iron levels mean unhappy red blood cells which can lead to the following:
Why are pregnant women and postpartum women more likely to become iron deficient?
Iron deficiency in pregnancy is mainly a supply and demand issue. As pregnancies progress, the growing baby demands more and more iron for proper neurodevelopment, depleting the mum's reserves along the way. Postpartum iron deficiency generally follows, and it is potentially more complicated by increased blood loss during delivery, the demands of breastfeeding, and inadequate nutrition during this period.
What are the symptoms?
- Extreme fatigue, even after sleep
- Heart palpitations
- Exercise intolerance
- Hair loss
- Breathlessness, dizziness
- Pins & needles, cold hands & feet
- Restless legs
- Brain fog
- Libido changes
- Anxiety, depression
How do I know if you are iron deficient?
You need a blood test- but not just a full blood count. You need a blood test to determine your ferritin levels, folate, Vit D and Vit B12. All are necessary to make an accurate diagnosis. It is important that you request the results of your blood test as not all healthcare providers are aware of the guidelines regarding iron deficiency.
What can you do if you are diagnosed with iron deficiency?
First and foremost, it is important to know how deficient you are before starting a course of treatment. This will require speaking to your GP about your options which can range from oral supplementation to more severe deficiencies that may require an iron transfusion. Knowledge is power. Know your levels first and then take it step-by-step.
If you are interested to learn more about iron deficiency during pregnancy and the postpartum period, please join us for our free webinar on December 8th, hosted by Maria Elliot, Kathryn Levy of Prima Women’s Health, and Dr Andrew Klein of the Cambridge Iron Clinic.
Guest Blogger: Kathryn Levy