I think I might be anaemic. Will this affect my chances of conceiving pregnancy?
Every cell in your body needs an adequate supply of oxygen, which is carried by the pigment haemoglobin in red blood cells. Anaemia occurs when there is a lack of red blood cells in your body. The most common cause of anaemia is a lack of iron, which is needed for the production of haemoglobin. Other types of anaemia include folic acid deficiency anaemia and pernicious anaemia (vitamin B12 deficiency).
It is much harder to conceive if you are anaemic as your body is already having to work harder to get sufficient oxygen to its vital organs, let alone the reproductive organs. In addition, if you are anaemic you are likely to suffer from irregular menstrual cycles, and anaemia can also interfere with ovulation.
Symptoms of anaemia include heavy periods, constant tiredness, breathlessness, pale skin, dizziness, and recurrent infections. If you suffer from these you should go to your doctor who will do a simple blood test to analyse your haemoglobin levels. In a healthy female these should be 11 to 15.
Iron supplements are usually prescribed, but it can take up to six weeks for the blood to recover. Eating foods rich in iron, such as eggs, fish, poultry, green leafy vegetables, and liver can help. Foods rich in vitamin B12 include lamb, sardines, and salmon. Foods rich in folic acid include dark green leafy vegetables, salmon, avocados, whole grains, and pulses. Vitamin C can improve iron absorption, whereas dairy-rich products can limit it.
Women with malabsorption problems, such as coeliac disease, or who suffer from heavy periods are particularly prone to anaemia, as are frequent dieters and vegetarians.