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 baby's 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.