Nutrition Articles

Iron Out Infertility

Nutrition News Flash

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In order for pregnancy to occur without some type of medical intervention, a woman’s ovary has to release an egg, or ovulate. Failing to ovulate is one of the leading causes of infertility—second only to a blockage of the fallopian tubes. In a recent study, researchers have found that this problem may actually be caused by a diet low in iron, and remedied simply by boosting iron intake.

The study, which was led by Jorge Chavarro, a research fellow in the department of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, was published in Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The 476 women studied were participants in the Nurses’ Health Study (a national study involving 18,000 nurses), who had reported having ovulation problems. Researchers found that women who consumed 76 milligrams of iron each day (on average) had a 60 percent lower risk of ovulation failure than women who ingested the lowest amounts of iron.

But the source of iron also matters, according to this study. Women who got most of their iron from animal sources like red meat (called “heme” iron) did not experience ovulation improvements. Women who consumed their iron from non-animal sources like fortified foods, legumes, grains, and supplements, had the greatest protection against infertility.

Action Sparked
If you are having difficulty conceiving, talk to your doctor to find out why. If lack of ovulation appears to be the problem, take a look at your diet and analyze whether or not you are getting ample amounts of iron. Some rich non-animal sources of iron include kidney beans, spinach, baked beans, fortified breakfast cereals, and supplements. Your doctor can help you decide if a supplement would be right for you.
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About The Author

Liza Barnes Liza Barnes
Liza has two bachelor's degrees: one in health promotion and education and a second in nursing. A registered nurse and mother, regular exercise and cooking are top priorities for her. See all of Liza's articles.

Member Comments

  • This article is not for me. Too late now. All finish. - 11/8/2013 4:28:31 PM
    I am past pregnancy, however, I do know young women who may benefit from this info. - 3/11/2012 9:20:41 AM
  • I have always heard of needing iron during child bearing years. And the older folks stressed proper nutrition. My generation/socioe
    conomic group ate a lot of meat. We followed the American trend at the time. Now we realize that we need 75% fruits, veggies, grains, etc. There is definitely something there. - 7/9/2011 1:27:08 PM
  • I cant see spinach as the reason for infertility by a long shot. - 6/21/2011 12:32:25 PM
    Are they not allowed to recommend meat? Doesn't it have the highest amount of iron? Red meat? - 6/20/2011 5:09:48 PM
  • Odd how they keep recommending spinach as a source of iron when recent articles keep stating that something in spinach interferes with iron absorption. - 3/18/2011 1:02:10 PM
  • Maybe that's why I never conceived. Now it's too late... - 7/14/2010 4:33:43 PM
  • Or TOO HIGH IRON. I did five years of IVF without success and with hindsight found I had hemochromatosis, previously I had repeated miscarriages....I
    ron maybe a factor, but what is key - is yours in the right range. Also does it stay in the right range after becoming pregnant.

    Other symptoms are aching hands, tiredness..... - 8/30/2009 4:34:43 AM
  • Interesting. - 9/10/2008 1:20:59 PM

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