Anemia After Childbirth: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Anemia is a fairly common pathology after childbirth that can cause great fatigue to a new mother. We'll go deeper into its causes, signs, side effects, and how to treat it.
Anemia After Childbirth: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Last update: 25 February, 2019

Becoming a mother is one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences. However, you should know that among the possible consequences that accompany the birth of a baby, anemia after childbirth is one of the most frequent in many women.

Postpartum anemia refers to a chronic iron deficiency after the baby’s arrival. This problem is due to the fact that at the end of the pregnancy, the female body uses up a lot of iron. It’s necessary for the development and growth of the fetus.

For this reason, you must take into account a few warning signs of this pathology in order to prevent it. They include fatigue, weakness, and irritability.

Anemia after childbirth

During pregnancy, a woman’s body produces more blood to support the baby’s growth. If there isn’t enough iron, the body may not be able to produce the number of red blood cells needed to generate the extra amount of blood.

Mothers who suffer from anemia during breastfeeding should know that there’s no contraindication to taking dietary supplements or foods containing iron during this stage.

There are several factors that contribute to anemia after childbirth. Sometimes, it can be difficult to determine the specific cause for each woman. However, the most obvious is the loss of blood that takes place during birth. Nonetheless, it usually recovers after a few days.

Anemia after childbirth can be a chronic condition with different causes in moms. This disorder can also affect women who haven’t suffered from anemia during pregnancy.

Postpartum anemia is a chronic iron deficiency after the baby's arrival.

Causes of anemia after childbirth

In most cases, the reason why women suffer from anemia after delivery is a combination of the following conditions:

Poor diet

Having anemia after childbirth can be difficult to manage. Even if mothers get enough iron through their diet, postpartum bleeding can last for weeks and it’s difficult to regain a balance.

Decreased iron absorption

Some women already struggle with absorbing iron due to intestinal conditions such as celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, or Crohn’s disease.

These complications, combined with the difficulty to maintain a good diet right after childbirth can cause postpartum anemia.

“A pregnant woman is like a beautiful flowering tree.”

–Peter Jackson–

Signs of postpartum anemia

Be sure to talk to your doctor if you ever feel overwhelmed or if any of the following signs of postpartum anemia become unmanageable for you. These are the ones that can indicate an iron deficiency:

  • Sadness or depression.
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness.
  • Shortage of breath.
  • Fast heartbeat.
  • Headaches.
  • Irritability or mood swings.
  • Loss of sexual appetite.
  • Paleness in the skin.

Side effects of postpartum anemia

It’s important to know that postpartum anemia can cause the following secondary health problems:

  • Increases the risk of postnatal depression.
  • It makes you vulnerable to frequent urinary tract infections.
  • You may suffer from excessive fatigue and exhaustion.
  • Insufficient milk syndrome during breastfeeding.
  • It can affect the quality of breast milk.
Make sure to include iron in your diet.

Treatment for postpartum anemia

Here are some steps you can take to keep postpartum anemia at bay:

  • Make sure you eat an iron-rich diet. Also, add sources that contain vitamin C since it stimulates the absorption of iron in the body.
  • You can also avoid eating foods rich in calcium because they inhibit iron absorption.
  • Consult your doctor and start taking iron supplements.
  • Your doctor may recommend intravenous iron.
  • In an extreme scenario, your doctor may advise a blood transfusion. This treatment varies from patient to patient according to iron levels and health status.

Finally, remember that anemia after childbirth can be treated with a healthy and balanced diet rich in iron and vitamin C.

You should know that maintaining adequate iron levels during pregnancy helps prevent postpartum anemia, be it natural or by cesarean section.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

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  • He H., Qiao Y., Zhang Z., Wu Z., et al., Dual action of vitamin C in iron supplement therapeutics for iron deficiency anemia: prevention of liver damage induced by iron overload. Food Funct, 2018. 9 (10): 5390-5401.
  • Milman N. Postpartum anemia I: definition, prevalence, causes, and consequences. Ann Hematol. 2011 Nov;90(11):1247-53.
  • Butwick AJ, McDonnell N. Antepartum and postpartum anemia: a narrative review. Int J Obstet Anesth. 2021 Aug;47:102985.
  • Milman N. Postpartum anemia II: prevention and treatment. Ann Hematol. 2012 Feb;91(2):143-54.
  • Azami M, Badfar G, Khalighi Z, Qasemi P et al. The association between anemia and postpartum depression: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Caspian J Intern Med. 2019 Spring;10(2):115-124.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.