During your pregnancy you may have been very aware of making sure you had all the nutrients you needed for your baby, and now they have arrived the focus is most definitely on them. However, it is important that you continue to take care of your own nutrition, for the well-being of both you and your baby.
Having iron deficiency anaemia after the birth of your baby can:
- Increase your chance of developing postnatal depression1
- Reduce your ability to fight infections2
- Cause feelings of stress and anxiety3
- Cause fatigue4 and exhaustion
- Cause insufficient milk syndrome5
- Reduce the quality of your milk6
Suffering from any of the above is draining, making it even harder to care for your baby.2 Having low iron levels may also have an effect on your emotional relationship with your baby.2 However, it is good to know that impact on your mother-child interactions can be improved by treating your iron deficiency anaemia.7
Suffering from postnatal depression can seriously affect your health and emotional wellbeing as well as that of your baby.1 Even if you have had a normal delivery, if you have anaemia a week later you are more likely to experience symptoms of depression when your baby is around a month old.1
Fatigue and exhaustion
One of the main topics of conversation for new parents is ‘how much sleep have you had?’ And it is generally accepted that looking after a new-born will leave you sleep deprived. However, the extreme exhaustion of fatigue, beyond the normal tiredness of being a new parent, is a sign that you could have iron deficiency.8
Experiencing fatigue can also affect your milk supply,9simply because you are too tired to meet the demands of a new-born and need someone else to help by feeding the baby with a bottle whilst you rest. However, maintaining your milk supply needs a continuous demand-supply relationship.
If you think you may be suffering from fatigue you can complete our Fatigue Questionnaire. You can use the results from this to discuss how you feel with your doctor or midwife.
Breastfeeding can have benefits for both you and your baby, but it is not necessarily as easy as it might seem. Being successful with breastfeeding depends on different physical, social and emotional factors, including having a healthy diet. The chance of developing something known as insufficient milk syndrome has been associated with having iron deficiency anaemia.5This syndrome in turn can affect how long you manage to breastfeed for.5
One of the important roles of breast milk is to give your baby antibodies which help protect them against infections.6 If you have iron deficiency anaemia your milk may contain less antibodies, and have different levels of fat and calories than someone without iron deficiency anaemia.6 It may also be low in other substances that are needed for your baby’s immune system.6
What can I do?
The earlier iron deficiency is diagnosed, the earlier it can be treated. Take a look at the Symptom Browser and discuss any concerns you have with your doctor or midwife.
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 at your appointment.
Look after yourself and enjoy those precious moments with your baby.
- 1. a. b. c. Corwin EJ, Murray-kolb LE, Beard JL. Low Hemoglobin Level Is a Risk Factor for Postpartum Depression. J Nutr. 2003;133(August):4139-4142.
- 2. a. b. c. Milman N. Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Ann Hematol. 2011;90(11):1247-53. doi:10.1007/s00277-011-1279-z.
- 3. Beard JL, Hendricks MK, Perez EM, et al. Maternal Iron deficiency anemia affects postpartum emotions and cognition. J Nutr. 2005;135:267-272.
- 4. 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. a. b. c. 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. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7779228.
- 6. a. b. c. 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):1223-7. doi:10.3109/14767058.2013.776529.
- 7. 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.
- 8. Patterson A et al. Iron deficiency, general health and fatigue: Results from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health. Qual Life Res. 2000;9:491-497.
- 9. Bodnar L, Scanlon K, Freedman DS, Siega-Riz AM, Cogswell ME.High prevalence of postpartum anemia among low-income women in the United States. Am J …. 2001;185(2):438-443. doi:10.1067/mob.2001.115996.