Pregnant Women and Nursing Mothers need more iron~~

(NC)–Iron is one of the most common dietary deficiencies, affecting as many as five billion people or up to 80 per cent of the world's population, according to the World Health Organization.

Fresh supplies of iron are needed on a daily basis to make healthy, hemoglobin-rich blood and to maintain iron stores in the body. Iron is also needed for energy and proper cellular function. 

The average consumption of iron in the diet is only 6 mg/1000 calories; this level is suitable for men, but it leaves women deficient, as they require 15 to18 mg daily to compensate for iron loss during menstruation. It is estimated that up to 26% of women between 15 and 45 years are iron-deficient, making iron deficiency the leading cause of fatigue amongst women in this age range. Symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, decreased ability to concentrate, decreased endurance during exercise, increased frequency of infection, paleness, dark circles under the eyes, brittle hair and nails, and cold hands and feet.

“During the childbearing years, iron is also needed for proper placenta development and prevention of pre-term labour, postpartum depression, and low birth weight babies,” says Dr. Cathy Carlson-Rink, a licensed naturopathic physician and registered midwife. “But many women enter pregnancy with low iron stores and, in fact, it is estimated that only one in five women enter a pregnancy with adequate iron levels. And since it can take up to six months to replenish low iron stores, I recommend regular low dose iron supplementation in the childbearing years to ensure that iron levels are adequate around the time a pregnancy is planned,” she notes.

The baby stores iron in the womb but this reserve will last only for four to six months post-natally. After this point, breast milk becomes the source of the baby’s iron, but in many cases a mother’s iron reserves may already be fully depleted. The first year of life is a vulnerable period for brain growth, and the effects of iron deficiency may be associated with developmental delays in both motor and cognitive abilities. The iron production in breast milk requires an additional 0.3 to 0.6 mg of iron per day, bringing the total desired iron intake to at least 20 mg per day. 

Many pregnant women suspected of having an iron deficiency will go for a hemoglobin test. However, a serum ferritin test is a more sensitive indicator of iron deficiency. 

Once an iron deficiency is diagnosed, solid iron and vitamin tablets will often be the recommended course of treatment. However, one of the side effects of these tablets is constipation. There is also concern that doses higher than 50 mg per day in pregnancy may be linked with high blood pressure and free-radical damage in expectant mothers. Ironically, high doses of iron during pregnancy have also been found to increase the rate of low birth-weight babies and premature births, which are actually prevented with low-dose supplementation. 

“Solid tablets first need to be broken down by the body before the iron becomes available for absorption. A non-constipating, vegetarian, liquid iron formula can provide the necessary tools for the prevention of common iron deficiency,” says Dr. Carlson-Rink. -News Canada- 

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