Anemia in pregnancy : Can Low Iron Affect Fertility and Pregnancy?
When a couple is attempting to conceive, any number of factors can come into play that may affect fertility. For those trying to become pregnant, it is very possible that low iron may be the culprit. Low iron in pregnancy go hand in hand since proper iron levels are required for appropriate hormonal function. If the hormones are not in proper balance, this may have a negative effect on the lining of the uterus a well as ovulation. To answer the question can anemia cause infertility, read on.
The Role of Iron : Low Iron In Pregnancy
Iron plays a very import roll in the human body. All the cells in the body require iron for oxygen delivery and enzyme activity. The requirements for iron will increase during pregnancy since as a woman’s blood volume increases to help the fetus to develop and grow properly. For those reasons, women who have normal iron levels may find those levels are low during pregnancy.
Low Iron Anemia in Pregnancy
Women who have low levels of iron during pregnancy have a high risk of adverse outcomes. These include delivering a baby of lower than average birth weight, intrauterine growth restriction, and maternal illness. The fetus’s brain develops very quickly which means that low iron levels pose quite the risk. That risk is even greater in women who smoke, have high blood pressure, or are glucose intolerant.
Iron deficiencies can also be identified through symptoms. Common symptoms of low iron levels during pregnancy include the following:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Weakened immune system
- Shortness of breath
- Heart problems
Causes Iron Levels Anemia in Pregnancy According to Chinese Medicine
In TCM, blood is considered to be governed by the heart, stored in the liver, and produced by the spleen. According to Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Low iron levels correspond directly with deficiencies of blood and Qi. Both blood and Qi are necessary for providing the body with nourishment, and they are required to support overall health.
Blood is what gives nourishment to the organs of the body. Blood is also responsible for the ongoing production of Qi in the body. However, it is Qi specifically that gives movement to blood. Without Qi, stagnation can occur in essential organs.
The spleen also plays an important role in producing and circulating blood and Qi. If the spleen is not in proper working order, this may lead to an imbalance in blood and Qi which may then result in low levels of iron.
Pregnancy on its own has the potential to lead to low iron levels, but other factors can also combine to result in a greater risk of Anemia in pregnancy. These include a poor diet, higher levels of stress, and chronic illness.
The Importance of Iron for Fertility and Pregnancy According to Traditional Chinese Medicine
On average, a woman needs about 18 mg of iron each day. During pregnancy, a woman’s need for iron increases significantly. It is recommended that pregnant women get at least 27 mg of iron per day. On average, pregnant women require about .8 mg per day of absorbed iron to maintain healthy iron levels in the first trimester. During the third trimester, that need for absorbed iron increased to 7.5 mg per day. That is because during the last months of pregnancy, a fetus begins to store iron for use during their first six months of life before they are able to tolerate solid foods.
Iron levels will be lower after pregnancy due to blood loss during delivery. Women who are still experiencing low iron levels postpartum may find that their milk production is insufficient. Women are also at risk of such health issues as breast inflammation, slowly healing sore nipples, as well as blocked ducts.
Can Anemia Cause Infertility?
For those trying to conceive, low iron may very well have a negative effect on their fertility. Iron is essential for proper ovarian function and follicular development making the need for iron when trying to conceive an absolute must. About half of women with anemia who are in their child-bearing may also experience an absent period known as amenorrhea. This may be an indication of eating an insufficient number of calories. Low iron may also cause anovulation, meaning an egg does not get released during the menstrual cycle. This does not just make conception difficult; it makes it impossible.
Women who are trying to conceive should also ensure they are getting both heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron is found in meats such as beef. Non-heme iron comes from plant sources such as leafy greens, legumes, and nuts. The non-heme iron found in plants has been shown in studies to lower the risk of infertility by 40%.
How TCM Addresses Iron Deficiency
Practitioners of TCM aim to improve iron levels by tonifying nourishing both blood and Qi. To do so, the following are often recommended:
Acupuncture: Used in TCM for ages, acupuncture will help to improve a woman’s chances of conception by improving blood flow to the ovaries and uterus. It has also been shown to help reduce stress levels by increasing serotonin levels.
Studies have demonstrated that acupuncture can boost the digestive tract’s ability to absorb iron. An rise in serum ferritin, a protein that transports iron in the blood, was seen following acupuncture therapy.
Si Wu Tang Supplements: Concoctions of Si Wu Tang have been used in TCM to treat discomfort during the menstrual cycle. It is made up of four Chinese medicinal herbs. These include Angelica Radix, Angelica sinensis, Chuanxiong Rhizoma, and Paeoniae Radix. This blood tonic formula has been shown to improve blood deficiency and encouraging normal menstruation in those who struggle with menstrual irregularities. It also helps to regulate Qi while eliminating blood stasis.
Iron-rich Diet: Since low iron in pregnancy go hand in hand, women trying to conceive must ensure they are getting plenty of high-quality iron in their diet. Adding foods such beef liver, beans, and spinach will ensure that the body is getting the right amount of both types of iron.
Herbal Tea: Drinking tea is safe for women who are trying to conceive and will not result in depleted levels of iron. Herbal, green, and black teas can all still be enjoyed by women who are trying to conceive.
When trying to conceive, low iron levels absolutely must be addressed. Low iron in pregnancy is common and a lack of iron most certainly will make conception difficult. Those asking “can anemia cause fertility?” can take comfort in knowing that a TCM practitioner can present many options to help bring iron to a healthy level.
Acupuncture will help to improve blood flow, and concoctions such as Si Wu Tang will help to resolve blood deficiency and encourage regular menstruation. If you are trying to conceive and want to ensure you are maintaining healthy iron levels, speak to a TCM practitioner to discuss your options.
For more information about how Chinese Medicine can help you with anemia in pregnancy, book your free consultation with our Chinese Medicine experts today
* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We can’t guarantee the treatment result, as the symptoms of conditions are unpredictable and vary greatly from person to person. The treatment length and recovery time also varies for individual. Please visit our clinics website: GinSen where a specialists will discuss your care and provide a consultation, and the treatment will be designed to meet your individual needs.