A Guide to Healthy Iron Levels for Women

Older mother and her adult daughter smiling

Iron deficiencies are very common in the U.S. and around the world; however, certain populations are more prone to them than others.

The prevalence of this condition is estimated to be between nine and 12 percent in non-Hispanic White women and up to 20 percent in Black and Mexican American women. This is compared to only about two percent in adult men. This means that women need to pay special attention to their iron level range to prevent problematic symptoms that will cause discomfort and slow them down.

This article will serve as a guide about the healthy iron level range for women and how women can achieve high iron levels for optimal health.

Why Low Iron Levels Affect Women

The various stages of a woman’s life, such as menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause, have a profound effect on her iron levels and cause fluctuation within the iron level range. Both men and women lose iron through urine, feces, and even the skin. However, women lose more iron when they are menstruating because of the extra blood loss and during pregnancy to support the iron needs of an unborn child.

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The Recommended Iron Level Range for Women

There are several different tests that a physician may order to determine whether a woman has an iron deficiency. One of these is a hemoglobin test, and the normal hemoglobin range for women is between 12.0 and 15.5 grams per deciliter.

Another test checks hematocrit levels, which is the percentage of blood volume that is comprised of red blood cells. The recommended hematocrit range for women is between 34.9 and 44.5 percent. Levels below these figures may suggest the presence of an iron deficiency.

Iron Level Range for Women: A Practical Iron Levels Chart

Although these iron level ranges can only be checked by conducting a blood test, women can take control of their iron intake through food and supplementation. The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies developed the following iron levels chart to show the recommended iron intakes for women of various ages and also during pregnancy and lactation.

It should be noted that the recommended amounts of iron are three to four milligrams higher for women than men between the ages of 14 and 50. Women who are pregnant, who have heavy menstrual flows, or who have uterine fibroids often require higher iron levels beyond the normal iron level range recommendations.

Age Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 0.27 mg
7–12 months 11 mg
1–3 years 7 mg
4–8 years 10 mg  –
9–13 years 8 mg
14–18 years 15 mg 27 mg 10 mg
19–50 years 18 mg 27 mg 9 mg
51+ years 8 mg

How to Achieve High Iron Levels

Although maintaining high iron levels can be a challenge for women during certain life phases, it is certainly not impossible. Iron supplements, such as Fergon, help women maintain their active lifestyles without being weighed down by fatigue and low energy. Iron supplements are effective when taken on an empty stomach about an hour before a meal or a couple hours after a meal. Although it’s important to avoid taking calcium supplements or antacids at the same time as iron supplements because these can hinder the body’s ability to absorb iron.

Women should also eat plenty of iron rich foods on a daily basis, such as spinach, lentils, dried apricots, and beef or chicken liver. It is also a good idea to get one’s iron levels checked if unexplained symptoms arise or as part of an annual checkup.

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