Iron is an important nutrient for keeping you healthy. Iron is needed to carry oxygen in your blood around your body, to give you energy and help you concentrate. It also helps keep your immune system healthy, allowing you to fight off infections. Low iron levels can lead to Iron deficiency which puts you at risk of a condition known as iron deficiency anaemia, where the number of healthy red blood cells in your body is reduced.
As a woman there are times when you are more at risk of not having enough iron (during periods) or when you might need extra iron, such as during pregnancy and after giving birth. You may also need to think about the iron levels of your children at certain times, especially during growth spurts and when your daughter starts her periods. So, whatever stage of life you are in, iron should be an important part of it.
Periods are a huge milestone in a girl’s life, and are an important part of what it means to be a woman. Aside from the monthly inconvenience of carrying pads/tampons around, worrying where the nearest bathroom is, stomach pains and generally not feeling yourself, a period puts quite a strain on your body and its iron stores.
When you start thinking about having a baby there are some things that come to mind – cutting back on alcohol and caffeine and maybe taking a folic acid supplement – but you may also need to keep an eye on your iron levels.
Good news – now you can eat for two! Although, unfortunately, that it is not really true, it is important that you start looking carefully at what you eat. During pregnancy you and your baby need iron for everything to go smoothly and your doctor or midwife will check your iron levels. However, it is worth knowing what the signs of iron deficiency are and how you can maintain your iron levels between appointments. Iron is also important to help you cope with, and enjoy, the early days with your baby.
Becoming a mother is life-changing, and so is being a mother. From the get home from hospital ‘what do we do now’ moments, to thinking ‘they’re eating me out of house and home’, being a mother is an incredible journey. As important as iron was during pregnancy, it continues to be a vital part of keeping you, and your children, healthy.
A major part of your life may have been focussed on the health and wellbeing of your children. You may have spent time making sure they are eating well, studying, playing, making friends – and generally worrying about them! But as they become independent, you have time to turn the focus back on you.