Iron deficiency anemia is a health condition where the body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells due to a lack of iron over a long period of time. The body needs iron to produce hemoglobin, which is a component of red blood cells that transports oxygen and removes carbon dioxide.
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency worldwide. It’s also the most common cause of anemia. 1.2 billion people around the globe have iron deficiency anemia.

Impact of iron deficiency anemia on fertility

Iron is a very important mineral for fertility. Not having enough iron is associated with ovulation problems, miscarriage, low birth weight, and preterm labor. When there isn’t enough flow of oxygen to the ovaries, it can also reduce egg quality. This can make conception more difficult and prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the womb.

Potential causes of iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia can be caused by:

  • Lack of iron in your diet (vegetarians and vegans are at higher risk of iron deficiency)
  • Blood loss (women with heavy periods are at higher risk of iron deficiency)
  • Intestinal disorder (f.e. celiac disease)
  • Bypass or surgical removal of part of the small intestine

Pregnancy can also lead to iron deficiency anemia.

Symptoms of iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia may not have symptoms at first, but as the deficiency gets worse, the following signs can appear:

  • Severe fatigue 
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Headache, dizziness, feeling lightheaded
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat, shortness of breath
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Brittle nails
  • Tongue inflammation

Diagnosis of iron deficiency anemia

Doctors diagnose iron deficiency anemia based on the results of different blood tests. These tests check the following blood parameters:

  • Complete blood count (CBC)
  • Hemoglobin levels
  • Blood iron levels
  • Ferritin levels

Treatment to improve fertility

It’s super important to increase your iron levels before getting pregnant because pregnant women need even more iron than non-pregnant women to have a healthy flow of oxygen to the growing baby.

Thankfully iron deficiency can be easily treated through supplementation and dietary changes. You can take a supplement as a daily pill, or if necessary through regular injections, depending on your iron levels. Research shows that women who take iron supplements have a 40% lower risk of ovulatory infertility than those who don’t.

Here are the iron-rich foods that you can eat more of to improve your iron levels:

  • Red meat, pork, and poultry
  • Spinach
  • Liver
  • Shrimp
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Fortified grains (f.e. bread, cereal, and pasta)
  • Verbena tea and shiso leaf tea

Besides that, it’s helpful to know that vitamin C enhances your body’s absorption of iron. So it’s a good idea to eat these foods too to help raise your iron levels and improve fertility:

  • Citrus fruits
  • Bell peppers
  • Broccoli
  • Berries
  • Tomatoes

Iron tablets may cause constipation, but eating a high-fiber diet, staying hydrated, and exercising regularly can prevent that. 
You can read more in-depth about iron and fertility in our blog article.

This article has been verified by a medical professional

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