Written by Tanya, IBCLC
If you’re iron-deficient after having your baby, you are not alone. It is estimated that up to one in four women experience iron-deficiency after giving birth.
WHAT ARE THE EFFECTS OF IRON DEFICIENCY?
Low iron levels can make life – let alone life parenting a new baby – very difficult. Symptoms of iron deficiency can include feeling weak and tired, feeling dizzy or cranky, headaches, shortness of breath, trouble concentrating, and a pale appearance. It has also been found to affect postpartum emotions and thinking.
According to The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk, limited evidence suggests that low iron levels could also affect lactation. The authors note that researchers believe it is important to treat iron deficiency, whether or not you have symptoms.
HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE YOUR IRON LEVELS?
Luckily, restoring your iron stores is usually fairly simple. It's typically done using over-the-counter or prescription iron supplements. For some people, however, those supplements can cause digestive problems such as an upset stomach and constipation.
Fortunately, there are a number of herbs that can play a role in restoring your iron levels. Herbs such as alfalfa, dandelion root or leaf, burdock, and yellow dock are thought to help in mild cases of anemia. These herbs may be taken individually or in combination; but note that they may interact with medications such as warfarin (Coumadin), lithium, and digoxin, among others.
Many midwives recommend a liquid plant-based supplement such as Floradix Iron + Herbs and Gaia Herbs Plant Force Liquid Iron, which are easy to take, highly-absorbable, and in a concentrated form. They contain a number of key iron-restoring herbs such as nettle, yellow dock, quitch root, fennel, anise, African mallow blossom, and rosehips; and are an especially great alternative to regular over-the-counter iron supplements because they do not cause constipation.
The Breastfeeding Mother's Guide to Making More Milk also notes that galactagogue herbs containing iron may also be a useful (and multi-tasking!) option. A number of Motherlove products contain iron-rich herbs, such as More Milk Plus and More Milk Special Blend.