Iron Infusion During Pregnancy: Benefits, Risks And Everything You Need To Know
About 75% of Singaporean women suffer from iron deficiency during pregnancy. Here's everything you need to know about it. Read more here!
When my husband and I decided on trying to have a second child, I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Both of us are very busy—constantly travelling, having long days, etc. But because we both knew that it’s time for baby number 2, after all, Shan is already 3 years old, if we really want to have this baby, we’re going to have to make sure my body is ready.
So in preparation, I took a health screening. It is especially important to do this now, even though I’ve gotten pregnant before because having been pregnant before meant that my body had gone through significant changes which are likely to affect the ability to carry another child.
Plus, all the things that applied to my pregnancy the first time around still apply. This included a pre-conception checkup where I found out that I am severely iron-deficient.
Iron—which is essential for making haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen around your body to other cells and creates energy— is especially required when you’re pregnant. This is because an ample amount of iron is required for the placenta and growing baby. Some sources of iron include lentils, spinach, red meat, and quinoa. If you aren’t including the above in your diet, chances are that you are iron deficient.
So what is iron deficiency? Simply put, iron deficiency is when you don’t have enough iron in your blood which then leads to symptoms like fatigue, hair loss and depression. In Singapore particularly, 1 in 3 women are iron deficient and two-thirds of them are pregnant women who are typically in their third trimester.
Besides that, women, especially those who suffer from heavy periods, are at risk of iron deficiency. People who follow a vegetarian diet—because of the lack of iron in the food intake—are susceptible to iron deficiency as well. And because I am a woman who mostly follows a vegetarian diet, the chances of becoming iron-deficient for me is higher. Yes, ladies, these two pre-requisites were all it took for me to be at risk of iron deficiency.
And with the preconception checkup confirming my need to get an iron boost, I knew that if I really want to get pregnant, I have to act fast. I tried taking iron tablets for a while but it was of no use because I ended up vomiting it all out.
With oral iron supplements seeming to not be very useful in my case, I decided to get in touch with former Tickled Media Intern, now Dr Dheeraj Khiatani who is the Medical Director at the Iron Suites Medical Centre. He introduced me to this iron-deficiency treatment called Intravenous or IV Iron Infusion.
IV iron infusion is quite different from its counterparts.
The treatment gets the nutrient you need straight to your blood making it almost instant for your entire body to receive it. Iron deficiency treatments at the Iron Suite are done through IV iron infusion.
Because it is done intravenously, you can feel the benefits from as soon as after getting the infusion or within 2 to 3 days after. You start feeling more energetic, you can concentrate better and one IV iron infusion session should be enough for a lifetime. This may, of course, vary based on how much blood you lose either during menstrual cycles and during pregnancy and delivery.
On the day of my appointment to get it the infusion, the nurses and Dr Khiatani helped prepare me for the treatment. They went through my reports, asked me pre-treatment questions like what I ate and drank and how I was feeling before we began.
Now if you’re afraid of needles, it will help you keep your calm once you are sat on the comfortable massage chair in the treatment room. After I settled in, the nurses began their prep for the procedure by looking for visible veins in my arms.
This took quite a bit of time as the nurse painstakingly searched for my veins. Eventually, the nurse suggested squeezing a stress ball while my arms had a tourniquet attached. Within a few minutes of squeezing the stress ball, the nurse finally located my vein in my left arm.
As with everything with medicine, IV iron infusion also has its side-effects. For instance, patients sometimes tend to feel a bit flushed during the infusion and some patients even do report a bit of nausea. After the infusion, some patients also experience slight body aches and flu-like symptoms. But these symptoms are easily treated with over the counter paracetamol and ibuprofen.
As for me, after the insertion of the needle, my brain suddenly went foggy. I remember going blank and feeling all wobbly and unsteady. I immediately alerted the nurse and she ran to the pantry to get me some mentos to get my sugar levels going.
She also pushed the massage chair’s level down to mimic a bed. So instead of sitting upright, I was at a slightly more inclined level to get my blood flowing. As the nurse was changing the chair settings, Dr Khiatani also came in to check on me and assured me that it was a normal reaction.
He suspected I had the brain fog as a possibly delayed reaction to the needle. Soon after changing my position and eating the mentos, I was back to normal again and ready for the infusion.
Based on these new circumstances, the nurses were with me throughout the procedure to monitor my reaction. The whole procedure, including preparation and the post-treatment consult, took about 30 minutes and after that, I was back to normal programming and was able to carry on with my day.
After a couple of days, the biggest difference I noticed was that my chronic itchiness was gone. Before I took the IV infusion, I would be constantly itching my legs or my neck and this was a real problem for me especially during meetings, where I looked unprofessional.
But you may be asking what’s the link between chronic itchiness and IV iron? Well, chronic itchiness is actually is one of the most common types of iron-deficiency.
Apart from that, I can’t say for sure that I had an energy boost because in any case I have a very hectic schedule but on the plus side I did not experience any side effects like nausea or brain fog.
The Iron Suites Medical Centre founded by Australian medical researcher Tim Cushway is the first clinic in Singapore offering IV iron infusion. Usually, this service can only be found exclusively in hospitals and is meant for patients undergoing surgery. Tim started the clinic after his then-pregnant wife Heike suffered from severe iron deficiency. Her condition however improved tremendously after taking IV iron and she was a lot more energetic than before.
Women should consider getting the IV iron infusion if they are severely iron deficient and no other remedy has worked. For instance, if you can’t ingest iron tablets or are vegetarian and are experiencing symptoms of iron deficiency like fatigue, hair loss and difficulty concentrating then IV iron is definitely worth a shot.
If you decide to stick to iron tablets, that is also a fair and cheaper method compared to IV iron infusion. A box of iron tablets costs about $20 while IV iron infusion costs a whopping $600 including GST. However, Dr Khiatani mentioned that iron tablets are not the best methods to tackle iron deficiency because the supplements take at least 3 months before showing an increase in iron levels.
While iron deficiency can seem to be daunting, the treatment doesn’t have to be. Whether you choose to take supplements, introduce more iron in your diet, or get an iron infusion, it is best to check your iron levels first and consult with your doctor the best treatment plan for you. Once you’ve done so, let us know!