Delivery and early days
You’ve done it – you have grown a whole other person and brought into this world. The arrival of your baby can be an amazing, or traumatic, experience. You may be tempted to try and forget it, focussing on your beautiful new baby. But your body has not forgotten and may need some extra help to recover and be at your best. Even after a normal birth there is a chance you could be iron deficient.
Am I at risk of iron deficiency?
Having iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia after giving birth is very common.1,2 Over a quarter of women who are not taking an iron supplement are iron deficient one week after a normal delivery.2
If you had iron deficiency during your pregnancy you are likely to still have low iron levels after giving birth.3 Other things that may increase your chance of having iron deficiency or iron deficiency anaemia after delivery include:
- If you had multiple pregnancies 3
- If you had a caesarean section (either by choice or emergency)4
- If you had forceps or vacuum delivery4
- If you lost a lot of blood during labour or just after giving birth3
- If your baby was premature, or very late4
- If you had twins (or more!)3
- If you were overweight or obese before getting pregnant5
What are the signs of iron deficiency?
If you think you may be at risk of iron deficiency you can learn more about the symptoms in our Symptom Browser, but it is important that you discuss this with your doctor or midwife.
Why is iron still important?
Recovering from the birth and looking after a new-born baby is tough, no matter how wonderful they are. One thing that can be easily forgotten, especially in the early days/months, is the importance of looking after yourself.
To cope with the demands of a new-born baby your body needs all the help it can get – and that includes iron. Iron is important for your body throughout your life, but having iron deficiency anaemia after giving birth can make it harder for you to interact and bond with your baby.6To learn more about the importance of iron in helping you look after your baby see our section‘Iron deficiency after giving birth’.
What can I do?
If you think you may have iron deficiency, the first thing to do is talk to your doctor or midwife 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.
Blood loss is normal in the postpartum period, but keep an eye on how heavy the bleeding is and how long it goes on for. 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. If you were given iron tablets during your pregnancy but found it hard to take them because of the side effects, remember to mention this to your doctor or midwife.
You can also increase the amount of iron in your diet. Your doctor or midwife will help you with this, but you can also learn more in our section on “Choosing your food wisely”.
Look after yourself and enjoy those precious moments with your new baby.
- 1. Milman N. Iron supplementation in pregnancy. Dan Med Bull. 1991.
- 2. a. b. 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. doi:10.1016/j.ijgo.2007.10.009.
- 3. a. b. c. d. Milman N. Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Ann Hematol. 2011;90(11):1247-53. doi:10.1007/s00277-011-1279-z.
- 4. a. b. c. 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):126-31. doi:10.1016/j.ejogrb.2010.02.030.
- 5. Bodnar LM, Cogswell ME, McDonald T. Have we forgotten the significance of postpartum iron deficiency? Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2005;193:36-44.
- 6. Murray-kolb LE, Beard JL.Iron deficiency and child and maternal health. Statistics (Ber). 2009;89:946-950. doi:10.3945/ajcn.2008.26692D.946S.