International Women’s Day 2024: Understanding the Prevalence and Impact of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Women

Anaemia: A Common Health Concern, Especially Among Pregnant Women. Explore Its Prevalence and Impact on Women’s Health.

International Women’s Day 2024: Prevalence and Impact of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Women
International Women’s Day 2024: Prevalence and Impact of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Women

“Iron Deficiency Anaemia: A Neglected Medical Disorder Impacting Patient Outcomes and Quality of Life”

Despite being one of the oldest and most prevalent medical disorders, iron deficiency anaemia continues to lack adequate clinical attention and evaluation. This condition is highly prevalent among hospitalised patients and is associated with worse outcomes, prolonged hospital stays, and overall poor quality of life. Even individuals who have received blood transfusions are at risk.

Anaemia is defined as having hemoglobin levels below two Standard Deviations (SD) of the mean for the patient’s age and gender. For females, the normal range is 12 – 14 gm/dl. Iron deficiency is the leading cause of anaemia, accounting for approximately 50% of anaemic cases,” explains Dr. Gaurangi Shah, Consultant in General Medicine at P. D. Hinduja Hospital & MRC, Mahim.

International Women’s Day 2024: Understanding the Prevalence and Impact of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Women

The Prevalence of Anaemia in Women: Understanding the Scope of the Issue

“Iron Deficiency Anaemia Prevalence Among Women: Insights from Global and National Data”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 29.9% of women of reproductive age (15 – 49 years) and 36.5% of pregnant women were affected by iron deficiency anaemia in 2019. This prevalence tends to be higher in developing countries compared to developed ones. In India, the latest reports indicate that every 1 out of 2 women suffers from iron deficiency anaemia, highlighting the significant burden of this condition in the country.

Causes of Iron deficiency anaemia

According to Dr Shah, following are the causes of iron deficiency anaemia. 

  • Nutritional deficiency
  • Impaired absorption from Gastrointestinal system
  • Blood loss (e.g. Menstruation, Piles etc.)
  • Increased demand in conditions such as pregnancy.


“In cases of ‘Mild’ anaemia, most patients remain asymptomatic except for mild fatigue. However, when hemoglobin drops to 7 – 8 gm/dl, patients may experience easy fatigability, low energy levels, breathlessness on exertion, leg cramps, hair fall, brittle nails, pale skin, etc.,” said Dr. Shah. Additionally, in cases of ‘Severe’ Iron deficiency, patients may develop congestive heart failure, which can be lethal if left untreated.”


The impact of iron deficiency anemia on women

The impact of IDA on women’s health can be profound, affecting physical health, cognitive function, and quality of life:

  • Fatigue and Weakness: The most common symptoms of IDA, due to insufficient oxygen reaching body tissues.
  • Reduced Immunity: Iron is vital for immune function; deficiency can make women more susceptible to infections.
  • Impaired Cognitive Function: IDA in women has been linked to decreased cognitive performance, concentration, and productivity.
  • Complications During Pregnancy: For pregnant women, IDA increases the risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality. It can also lead to postpartum depression and decreased physical and cognitive development in infants.
  • Impact on Heart Health: Iron deficiency forces the heart to work harder to transport oxygen, which can lead to increased heart rate and even heart failure in severe cases.

Chronic iron deficiency can indeed lead to an increased risk of various health complications, including infections, pregnancy-related complications, and depression. Populations at high risk, such as women with heavy menstrual cycles, frequent blood donors, adolescent girls, and individuals with poor dietary habits, should be given iron therapy for prophylaxis to prevent iron deficiency anaemia and its associated consequences. Prophylactic iron therapy can help maintain adequate iron levels in the body, reducing the risk of infections, improving outcomes during pregnancy, and potentially alleviating symptoms of depression. It is important for healthcare providers to identify individuals at high risk of iron deficiency anaemia and initiate appropriate preventive measures, including iron supplementation, to promote overall health and well-being.

Empirical iron supplementation for everyone is not recommended due to lack of evidence supporting its benefits and potential harm. However, iron deficiency anaemia remains a significant public health challenge, particularly among women of reproductive age. The impact of this condition on health and well-being highlights the importance of preventive measures, timely diagnosis, and effective management. By implementing a combination of dietary strategies, targeted supplementation, and appropriate healthcare interventions, it is possible to reduce the prevalence and impact of iron deficiency anaemia. This approach can help improve overall health outcomes and quality of life for affected individuals.