During pregnancy, both you and your baby will need iron, so your doctor or midwife will check your iron levels. However, it is worth knowing the signs of iron deficiency (ID) and how you can maintain your iron levels between appointments. Iron is also important to help you cope with, and enjoy, the early days with your baby. 1
Iron is involved in many processes in your body.
It is needed for both physical and mental performance and to help you fight off infections. When you are pregnant you need iron to do all of this and to develop a healthy placenta, to support the growth of your baby and protect you against any blood loss during delivery. 1
The placenta is responsible for the transfer of the bulk of substances between you and your growing baby. Oxygen and nutrients from your blood travel through the placenta and into the umbilical cord to be delivered to your baby. 2 The transfer of nutrients occurs through blood, and iron is needed for development of this blood. 1,2
Extra blood 2x
During your pregnancy you will almost double the amount of blood going around your body. You will need to increase your number of red blood cells by 35 %, and to do this your body needs iron. 3
Iron and a healthy pregnancy
During pregnancy it is important to maintain the correct iron levels. 3 Having iron deficiency anaemia (IDA) during pregnancy can contribute to your baby being born early (premature) or small (low birth weight). 1,4
There are some factors that may put you at a higher risk of having ID or developing IDA: 1
- If you had low iron levels before you were pregnant
- If you have other children, especially if they are close in age
- If you are having twins, or more
If you have ID or IDA during pregnancy you are likely to still have ID or IDA after giving birth, and less able to cope with any blood loss during delivery. Having low haemoglobin levels after birth can make it harder to look after your baby. 1,5 Learn more about delivery and the early days.
The good news is there is a preferable solution for pregnant woman – FERRIMED® . It is clinically proven to be effective in the treatment of IDA in pregnant women. 6 It doesn’t interfere with other medicines or food and is well tolerated with limited potential for side effects. 6,7 Unlike other iron supplements, FERRIMED® contains ferric iron which allows the body to absorb only the iron it needs. 7 So for expectant moms, trust FERRIMED® to supplement your iron needs, by preventing or treating IDA in order to optimise the health of your baby. 6
Iron and a healthy baby
Iron is needed for all organs to work properly, but especially when they are growing. 4 A growing baby first uses iron that it gets from the mother to make red blood cells. 1 If there is not enough iron in a baby’s body, it can affect the growth of their heart, muscles and brain. 1,4 A baby’s immune system will also be affected if there is inadequate iron available. 4 Iron is very important for a healthy brain development. 1
Iron is not only necessary for growth in the womb, but also for growth after birth. Your baby uses the iron stored before birth to grow. 1 A healthy, full-term baby will have enough iron to keep it growing normally until it is 4-6 months old. 1,4
After giving birth, your body may need some extra help to recover and be healthy.
As your body returns to normal, there will be a change in the amount of iron your body will require. 3 Even after a normal birth there is a chance you could have low iron. 5
Am I at risk?
Iron deficiency (ID) after giving birth is very common. 8 Almost a quarter of women are anaemic one week after a normal delivery. 5 Having a caesarean can also increase your risk of IDA as a result of blood loss during the delivery. 5 If you had IDA during your pregnancy you are likely to still have low iron levels after giving birth. 5 Other factors that may increase your chance of having IDA after delivery include:
- If you have other children 5
- If you had a caesarean section 5
- If you had forceps or vacuum delivery 9
- If you lost a lot of blood during labour or just after giving birth 10
- If your baby was premature, or very late 9
- If you had twins (or more!) 5
- If you were overweight or obese before getting pregnant 10
- If you are a vegetarian 5
Why is iron still important?
To cope with the demands of a new-born baby your body needs all the help it can get – and that includes iron. ID and IDA after birth can negatively affect your quality of life, by:
- Affecting your mood and emotional well-being 5,11
- Increasing number of infections 5
- Causing fatigue 10
- Causing insufficient milk syndrome 12
- Reducing the quality of your milk 13
If you think you may suffering from low iron levels the first thing to do is talk to your doctor and get your iron levels checked. Remember to mention any difficulties you had during the birth and the amount of blood you have lost since getting home. If you are feeling particularly distressed, exhausted or having problems looking after your baby don’t be afraid to say so.
The earlier iron deficiency is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated.
- Breymann C. Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol 2013;8(6):587-596.
- Desforges M, Sibley CP. Placental nutrient supply and fetal growth. Int J Dev Biol 2010;54(2-3):377-390.
- Bothwell TH. Iron requirements in pregnancy and strategies to meet them. Am J Clin Nutr 2000;72(Suppl):257S-264S.
- Rao R, Georgieff MK. Iron in fetal and neonatal nutrition. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med 2007;12(1):54-63.
- Milman N. Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Ann Hematol 2011;90(11):1247-1253.
- Ortiz R, Toblli JE, Romero JD, Monterrosa B, Frer C, Macagno E, Breymann C. Efficacy and safety of oral iron(III) polymaltose complex versus ferrous sulfate in pregnant women with iron-deficiency anemia: a multicenter, randomized, controlled study. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2011;24:1-6.
- Borbolla JF, Cicero RE, Dibildox M, Sotres D, Gutiérrez R. Iron hydroxide polymaltose complex vs iron sulphate in the treatment of iron deficiency anaemia in infants. Revista Mexicana de Pediatria 2000;57(2):63-67.
- Breymann C, Gliga F, Bejenariu C, Strizhova N. Comparative efficacy and safety of intravenous ferric carboxymaltose in the treatment of postpartum iron deficiency anemia. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 2008;101(1):67-73.
- Bergmann RL, Richter R, Bergmann KE, Dudenhausen JW. Prevalence and risk factors for early postpartum anemia. Eur J Obstet Gynecol Reprod Biol 2010;150(2):126-131.
- Bodnar LM, Cogswell ME, McDonald T. Have we forgotten the significance of postpartum iron deficiency? Am J Obstet Gynecol 2005;193:36-44.
- Corwin EJ, Murray-Kolb LE, Beard JL.Low Hemoglobin Level Is a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression. J Nutr 2003;133:4139-4142.
- Henly SJ, Anderson CM, Avery MD, Hills-Bonczyk SG, Potter S, Duckett LJ. Anemia and insufficient milk in first-time mothers. Birth 1995;22(2):86-92.
- França EL, Silva VA, Volpato RMJ, Silva PA, Brune MFSS, Honorio-França AC.Maternal anemia induces changes in immunological and nutritional components of breast milk. J Matern Fetal Neonatal Med 2013;26(12):1223-1227.
- Geisser P. Safety and Efficacy of Iron(III)-hydroxide Polymaltose Complex. Arzneimittel-Forschung 2007;57(6a):439-52.
- Yasa B, Agaoglu L, Unuvar E. Efficacy, Tolerability, and Acceptability of Iron Hydroxide Polymaltose Complex versus Ferrous Sulfate: A Randomized Trial in Pediatric Patients with Iron Deficiency Anemia. Int J Pediatr 2011;2011:1-6.