The Importance of Iron During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, your body makes more blood to support the changes happening in your body as well as the growth and development of your baby. In fact, the amount of blood in your body increases to almost 50 percent more than your normal amount.
This means that getting enough iron during pregnancy is essential. You need it so that your body can make haemoglobin. This is the protein in your red blood cells that helps carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body – and to your baby.
If your body is not getting enough iron, then your body may not be making enough red blood cells which can cause “iron deficiency anaemia” and result in you feeling fatigue and not able to carry out your normal routine.
During pregnancy, anaemia also poses risks to your baby. If can lead to higher chances of preterm labour, or cause your baby to be born too small.
What is an IV Iron Infusion?
If your blood tests reveal significantly low iron levels, your GP, OBGYN or Haematologist may suggest an IV iron infusion. This means that rather than take an iron pill orally, you receive iron intravenously directly into your blood stream through a needle placed on your hand or arm. The needle is attached to a drip that will contain iron mixed with saline (sterile salt water solution).
Reasons for suggesting the infusion might include (but not limited to):
- Inadequate absorption of iron through tablet or liquid form
- Unable to tolerate iron taken by mouth
- You are later in your pregnancy, and need a fast increase in iron levels to avoid complications during delivery
Side Effects of IV Iron Infusions
You should talk to your doctor regarding the risks and benefits of IV iron, as well as the possible side effects. Make sure you discuss any existing allergies, medications you are on, and any other health issues you might have.
In very rare cases, some people may experience severe side effects like difficulty breathing, mouth/neck swelling or dizziness. In most cases when receiving an IV iron infusion during pregnancy, your doctor or midwife will closely monitor both you and your baby to ensure there is no severe reaction before proceeding further.
Temporary side effects on the other hand, might not be felt immediately. Sometimes side effects start 1-2 days after the infusion. Your nurse or doctor might recommend taking paracetomol tablets to ease the symptoms. Symptoms can include:
- Muscle and joint pain
- Itchiness or rash
- Headache or nausea
- A change to your taste (e.g. metallic taste)
- Swelling at the injection site
“I had never had an IV Iron infusion before. I decided to get it done at my hospital that I was booked in to deliver at. I felt so much more confident there rather than at my haemotologist’s clinic. The midwives didn’t just focus on me, but also monitored my baby the whole time, which gave me so much more peace of mind during the procedure. The whole procedure was done in around 30-40 minutes. Within a couple of hours I felt so much more energy! In the days that followed, I felt quite a bit of pain in my hand and feet joints, but this subsided after around 5 days or so.” – Helen, 37 yo, 7 months pregnant, Mater Hospital.
“I’ve had iron infusions in the past, as I have a history of anaemia. I knew what to expect. I typically get sore joints and some swelling where they place the IV. I always feel better afterwards – so much more energy than before.” – Demi, 29yo, 6 months pregnant
Eleni Fegan is the founder and Managing Editor of DearBub Blog and Magazine which began from a personal journey of research and healing. Her motivation for DearBub is beautifully summarised in her Editor’s Letter: “I realised that there is beauty to giving voice to our experiences, and raising an awareness that we are not alone in them. I realised the immense power that ‘sharing’ had in transforming our sense of self and being through creating connection”.