Female Fertility and Iron Supplements
The importance of a healthy diet is central to improving your fertility and to improving your chances of getting pregnant. However, while natural fertility drugs and natural fertility treatment options are on the rise, the importance of essential vitamins and minerals, such as iron, is often overlooked.
A recent study found a link between low iron intake and female infertility, making increasing iron intake through food and iron supplements important for women trying to get pregnant. But why is iron so important to improving your fertility and what are the best sources of iron that you can incorporate into your healthy eating regimen?
The Link Between Female Infertility and Low Iron Intake
In a recent study, a low iron intake in women was found to lead to an increased risk of ovulatory infertility; meaning that a woman's body is unable to produce healthy eggs.
The women who participated in the study had no history of infertility. They were prescribed different dosages of iron and iron supplements in order to test the effects on their fertility. The womenï¿½s prescribed iron intake was dependent on their age, weight and lifestyle, among other factors.
The study found that by increasing their intake of iron, the women had a 40 to 60% lowered risk of ovulatory infertility.
The study found that the higher the iron intake, the lower the women's risk of developing ovulatory fertility problems. For example, women who consumed 41 miligrams or more of iron daily had a decreased risk of 62% of infertility problems. In addition, those women who were prescribed heme iron (iron that comes from animal sources, such as eggs) were also at higher risk for developing ovulatory fertility than those whose iron intake came from mostly non-heme iron (non-animal sources of iron, such as beans).
Sources of Iron
The following are some excellent sources of non-heme iron:
- bread (both white and whole wheat)
- prune juice
The following are some excellent sources of heme iron:
In addition, iron supplements are another excellent source of this mineral. While prenatal vitamins contain iron, they have varying levels of it, so be sure to check with your doctor before taking iron supplements in order to learn which one is best for you.
Causes of Iron Deficiency
Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, including the United States, where it affects millions of women.
The main source of low iron is a poor diet; menstruation is another factor that can lead to iron deficiency in women, and women with heavy periods are especially at risk. Even women who strive to eat well can find themselves iron deficient, if red meat isn’t a regular part of their diet. Vegetarian women are particularly prone to iron deficiency and may require iron supplements whether trying to conceive or not.
If left untreated, iron deficiency can lead to anemia, in which an abnormally low amount of healthy red blood cells results in greatly decreased energy levels.
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency
The following are common symptoms of iron deficiency:
- dizziness (for example, when sitting up suddenly after lying down)
- shortness of breath when exercising
- brittle, thin and weak nails
- decreased appetite
- low blood pressure
Iron and Pregnancy Health
Low iron intakes can also have a serious impact during and after pregnancy.
This is because during pregnancy, your baby siphons the mineral from your body, which can leave your own iron levels low. Also, not enough iron during pregnancy can negatively impact your babyï¿½s health, hindering his development.
Low iron levels in the early stages of pregnancy increase the risk of post-partum anemia, and can increase the risk of pregnancy complications, such as low birth weight.
Lactation can also lead to reduced levels of iron in the body.