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.
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.