Starting a Family

Deciding to have a family is a big moment for a couple, and you may have been thinking about it for some time. Making sure you are ready, both physically and emotionally, for the changes that a baby brings will give you, and your baby, the best start.

Why is Iron Especially Important for Me Now? 

Iron is essential for keeping you healthy every day. But if you are thinking about getting pregnant the amount of iron you have stored in your body is vital.

Successful pregnancy requires plenty of iron – for the growth of the placenta, a healthy baby and to protect you against blood loss during delivery.1 Not having enough iron, known as iron deficiency, is common, particularly in women and children.2 In fact, 40% of women begin their pregnancy without enough iron.3

Iron deficiency can develop when you don’t have enough iron to make healthy red blood cells to carry the normal amount of oxygen around your body. Having iron deficiency before you get pregnant can affect how much your baby grows, meaning they are more likely to have a decreased birth weight.4 Being anaemic at the beginning of your pregnancy can also increase the chance that you have your baby early.5

As soon as you get pregnant amazing things start to happen. The placenta begins to grow, and your baby’s organs are almost developed by 8 weeks.6 Because this all begins before you will know you are pregnant, it is essential that you have a healthy diet from the moment you start trying for a baby. 

Getting Pregnant

Being healthy and having enough iron when you are trying for a baby means that as soon as you are pregnant your baby has the best start. Your health can also affect your chances of getting pregnant. One cause of infertility is problems with ovulation – when your egg is released. Being active, not smoking or drinking alcohol, and having a balanced diet can reduce your chance of experiencing difficulties getting pregnant because of problems with ovulation.7


Am I Low in Iron?

Women are more at risk of suffering from iron deficiency than men because of the blood they lose during periods.2 Some types of contraceptives can reduce the amount of blood lost during your period, or may stop you having periods at all.  So, if you are coming off your contraception your periods will return to normal. If you weren’t having periods you will need twice as much iron as a man a day to make up for the iron you lose.2

Some signs that you may have iron deficiency include breathlessness, looking pale or feeling fatigued.8–10 Fatigue can leave you mentally and physically exhausted, day after day.11 To assess your level of fatigue you can fill in our Fatigue Survey. To check for signs that you may have low iron levels use the Symptom Browser.

If you think you may have fatigue or low iron levels it is important to speak to your doctor. Using the Fatigue Survey and Symptom Checker will help you discuss with your doctor why you think you might have low iron levels. And don’t forget to mention that you are hoping to get pregnant – so your iron stores are important.

I May be Iron Deficient – What Can I Do?

If you have looked at the signs and symptoms of iron deficiency and think they apply to you, then you should talk to your doctor. You can try to increase your iron levels by changing your diet, and doing this now will set you on the right path for getting enough iron throughout your pregnancy. Your doctor may test your blood for iron deficiency anaemia, and suggest suitable treatments in case your intake of dietary iron was not enough.

What About Dad?

Starting a family takes two, and the future dad’s health is important too. If your partner smokes or is low in certain nutrients it can affect his sperm. This can then affect the development of the foetus once the egg is fertilised.6

Making sure that both you and dad are healthy before you get pregnant will help ensure that you and your baby are healthy in the future.