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
Iron deficiency means there is not enough iron to meet your body’s needs.3 Iron deficiency can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, where you can no longer make the number of healthy red blood cells you need to carry oxygen around your body.3
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 Having iron deficiency anaemia 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.
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.7 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.
Some signs that you may have iron deficiency include breathlessness, looking pale or feeling fatigued.8,9,10Fatigue 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. 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.
- 1. Breymann C. Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy. Expert Rev Obstet Gynecol. 2013;8(6):587-596. doi:10.1586/17474108.2013.842683.
- 2. Zimmermann M, Hurrell R.Nutritional iron deficiency. Lancet. 2007;370:511-520. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673607612355.Accessed October 13, 2013.
- 3. a. b. Crichton R, Danielson B, Geisser P. Iron therapy with special emphasis on intravenous administration P32. 2008.
- 4. Ronnenberg AG, Wood RJ, Wang X, et al. Community and International Nutrition Preconception Hemoglobin and Ferritin Concentrations Are Associated with Pregnancy Outcome in a Prospective Cohort of Chinese Women 1. 2004;(August):2586-2591.
- 5. Viteri FE, Berger J. Importance of Pre-Pregnancy and Pregnancy Iron Status : Can Long-Term Weekly Preventive Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation Achieve Desirable and Safe Status ? Nutr Rev. 2005;63(12):S65-S76. doi:10.1301/nr.2005.dec.S65.
- 6. a. b. Viteri FE. Iron endowment at birth: maternal iron status and other influences. Nutr Rev. 2011;69 Suppl 1:S3-16. doi:10.1111/j.1753-4887.2011.00449.x.
- 7. Zimmermann M, Hurrell R. Nutritional iron deficiency. Lancet. 2007;370:511-520. Available at: http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0140673607612355. Accessed October 13, 2013.
- 8. Wood MM, Elwood PC.Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia: A community survey. Br J Prev Soc Med. 1966;20:117-121.
- 9. Stoltzfus R, Edward-Raj A.Clinical pallor is useful to detect severe anemia in populations where anemia is prevalent and severe. J Nutr. 1999;129(May):1675-1681. Available at: http://jn.nutrition.org/content/129/9/1675.short. Accessed February 11, 2014.
- 10. Peyrin-Biroulet L, Williet N, Cacoub P. Guidelines on the diagnosis and treatment of iron deficiency across indications: a systematic review. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;102(6):1585-94. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.103366.
- 11. Dittner AJ, Wessely SC, Brown RG. The assessment of fatigue: a practical guide for clinicians and researchers. J Psychosom Res. 2004;56(2):157-70. Available at: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15016573. Accessed September 21, 2013.