Iron and Calcium: Their Importance in a Woman's Life

Iron and calcium are important elements for everyone, but in women they have a fundamental role at each stage. We'll tell you what your body needs during breastfeeding, pregnancy, menstrual cycles and menopause.
Iron and Calcium: Their Importance in a Woman's Life

Last update: 14 April, 2021

Women should control their iron and calcium levels during the different stages of their lives. Both play an important role, especially when there are physiological and hormonal changes, the most significant stages being menstruation, pregnancy, lactation, and menopause.

Before taking iron and calcium supplements, it’s important that you review your diet and make the necessary changes. Eating a healthy and balanced diet helps to prevent health problems.

Food should be the primary source of iron and calcium.

Iron

An iron pill.
Iron supplements must be medically indicated. They aren’t always useful and won’t always have beneficial effects.

Iron is the most abundant trace element in the body. Of all the iron we ingest each day, only 10% is absorbed and the rest is eliminated in the feces. The main functions iron participates in are the following:

  • Transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body
  • Collaborating in metabolism, taking part in obtaining cellular energy.
  • Forming part of myoglobin in muscles
  • Promoting enzymatic reactions

Low iron levels can lead to iron deficiency anemia. This type of anemia is the most common, but in addition, this lack of iron can cause you to experience symptoms such as fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, and a headache.

Calcium

Calcium is one of the most important minerals in the body. It’s present in bones and teeth, forming more than 99% of their structure.

It has been found that the amount of calcium in the body is related to height, and not to age. For this reason, an increase of 20 grams of calcium is produced for each centimeter (0.4 inches) of height.

This mineral can be obtained from two sources: dairy and non-dairy sources, the latter including fish and canned fish. To maintain adequate levels of calcium, specialists advise consuming coffee, alcohol, and salt in moderation, since, according to some studies, the consumption of caffeine in excess isn’t good for bone health.

Iron and calcium in the different stages of a woman’s life

A doctor.

1. During menstruation

Any person loses approximately 1 milligram per day of iron in the form of sweat and urine. During menstruation, losses increase by 0.5 milligrams per day. For this reason, if your flow is heavy or long, you may need to boost your iron levels by taking a supplement.

Calcium needs, as mentioned above, are related to height. However, the recommended daily dose during menstruation is 1000-1300 milligrams per day.

2. Iron and calcium in pregnancy

During pregnancy, the recommended dose is between 1000 and 1300 milligrams of calcium per day. If the maternal intake of calcium isn’t sufficient, bone demineralization may occur.

In young mothers, as they haven’t yet reached the peak of their bone mass, it’s even more important to control calcium intake.

3. During lactation

Childbirth and lactation are two stages in which there’s a significant loss of iron. The recommended daily dose of calcium during lactation is 1000 to 1300 milligrams per day. If you’re a nursing mother, you should adjust your diet by increasing your calcium intake to compensate for the needs of this stage.

However, keep in mind that the composition of breast milk varies depending on the mother’s nutritional status as well as the type of feeding.

A breastfeeding baby.
Breastfeeding increases nutritional requirements, as does pregnancy.

4. Iron and calcium in menopause

Menopause is a stage that brings many changes in a woman’s life. If you maintain a correct diet you can prevent or delay some of the inconveniences that may appear such as:

  • Osteoporosis
  • Excess weight
  • Dyslipidemia

During menopause, calcium needs to be increased because bone resorption increases and bone mineral density decreases. At this stage, it’s important to take calcium supplements, with a recommended dose of 1200 milligrams of calcium with 800 milligrams of vitamin D.

You need to take the recommended daily amounts of iron and calcium at each stage. The ideal way to do this is through a balanced and healthy diet. However, depending on the circumstances, you may need to take a supplement. Before acquiring them and starting to take them on your own, consult your doctor or pharmacist for advice.

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  • Olivares G, M., & Walter K, T. (2003). CONSECUENCIAS DE LA DEFICIENCIA DE HIERRO. Revista Chilena de Nutrición. https://doi.org/10.4067/s0717-75182003000300002

  • Peiró, P. S. (2006). Gestación y dieta vegetariana. MEDICINA NATURISTA.

  • Ortega Anta, R. M., González Rodríguez, L. G., Lombán, B. N., Perea Sánchez, J. M., Vizuete, A. A., & López Sobaler, A. M. (2013). Ingesta de calcio y vitamina D en una muestra representativa de mujeres españolas; Problemática específica en menopausia. Nutricion Hospitalaria. https://doi.org/10.3305/nh.2013.28.2.6286