Ever since I’ve had my second daughter, I have felt like utter crap. I made multiple doctor appointments, which lead to multiple blood tests. All the tests always came back normal, and I continued to feel like crap. Asleep apnea test to make my husband happy. Ultimately lead to finding something fairly concerning. Low iron….. Read my story below!
Six Years Ago
When my youngest daughter Willow was born six years ago. It was noted that I had lost a bit more blood than expected during my routine cesarean section. I don’t recall the number, but I recall them mentioning I should have had a blood transfusion. I never did. At my six-week check-up, they rechecked my hemoglobin and found that it was normal, so no concerns. Sent me on my mary way.
Hemoglobin is a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your body’s organs and tissues and transports carbon dioxide from your organs and tissues back to your lungs.- Mayo Clinic 2021
For a while, I felt fine. I had no concerns. It wasn’t until my daughter was around 6-months old that I had decided I wanted to ditch the baby weight that never left. It was at this point that I notice how much harder it was to get the weight off. Actually, it never came off. I just ended up gaining more weight. I hated how I looked and felt. My weight has had a huge negative impact on my life over the last six years. I wanted to cry in defeat.
Around this time, I noticed my periods had also begun to be a bit irregular. Nothing concerning, but enough that it made me question if my hormones were out of balance. I’ve always had short periods, only menstruated for 3 days max, never heavy, no bad cramps. But they bounced between 28 – 76 days routinely. At my daughter 1 year appointment, I ask the doctor if she could check my blood work. She ran a routine CBC, Urinalysis, and a TSH to check my thyroid. Everything came back perfect; nothing was low, nothing was high. It was perfect blood work. So I shrugged it off to stress.
Hair Loss & Hair Growth
Shortly after that, I started noticing my hair was falling out more often. It didn’t seem to matter what I did. It was coming out in handfuls. Thankfully I had thick hair, so no one ever noticed except me when I washed my hair. At first, I thought maybe, I’m washing my hair with crappy products. So I spent a year learning what hair products would work best for my thick, coarse, wavy/curly hair. Well, I loved how my hair looked. It didn’t matter. My hair still fell out.
Around the same time, I noticed some little chin hairs. What kind of female wants chin hairs at only 28? Surely not me. This leads me to think that maybe I had Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS). I had countless symptoms, irregular periods, male pattern hair growth, weight gain and headaches. However, I lacked heavy periods and acne.
I went back to my doctor and had her test my TSH, FSH, and another CBC. Again, everything came back normal. Perfectly NORMAL.
Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) is a condition that affects a woman’s hormone levels. Women with PCOS produce higher-than-normal amounts of male hormones. – Healthline, 2021,
Anxiety & Depression
Here I am 3 years ago, in nursing school. Dealing with a lot of stress and a lot on the go. My kids were older and in countless sports. My husband and I were running every which way to get things done. It started to wear me down. During nursing school, I started to develop a lot of anxiety. I shrugged it off to the stress of nursing school. As if you do some research, you will find countless nursing students taking anti-depressants to get through nursing school.
The anxiety impacted my ability to focus on school. At one point, I wasn’t sure I would EVER get through nursing school. Which also led to depression and feeling like utter crap. Thankfully, I had some great family and friends that motivated me through this time. I mean, graduating nursing school in a pandemic is pretty anxiety-inducing to start with. However, it seemed like even when school was done and I had passed. That my anxiety and depression just got worse, daily.
I became unmotivated to do even the little tasks, cleaning my house. Going out for coffee with friends. I just wanted to stay home and stay in bed. After speaking with my doctor, the result ended up that I needed to be on anti-depressants to help. They did help, but they also made me feel emotional-less, and I hated it.
Fast Forward to This Last Year
Well, the anxiety and depression had gotten a bit better. It was still there. My weight was still not where I would like it. No matter how much exercise or dieting I did, my weight sat still. It would not budge more than 2-5 lbs. But during this last year, I also seemed to have developed chronic fatigue. I was exhausted all the time, no matter how much sleep I got.
Furthermore, I developed a bad case of insomnia. An no matter how many times I tried to change my sleeping habits, it never changed. I just felt exhausted every single day. When your chronically tired, you also notice brain fog set in. It impacts your speech, your ability to recall facts and more. It sucked.
My dear husband kept pushing for me to have a sleep apnea test because I apparently snore. Suprise. What else could be wrong with me at this point? So I called the clinic and scheduled an at-home sleep test. That sleep test ended up resulting in nothing. But she said I had a couple of sleep apnea periods and would refer me to a specialist.
Two months later, I get a phone call from the sleep specialist. It wasn’t anything great. He wanted me to retake my sleep apnea test (which I have done, awaiting the results). If that comes back negative, I will have an in-hospital sleep study done. But he wanted to run some tests to see if I was anemic or had low magnesium, as I also had restless legs at night.
So off to the clinic, I go for more blood work. That will probably turn out to be normal.
When the blood work came back, it confirmed I had deficient iron. Turns out I’m a bit weird. Despite having deficient iron, I also had perfectly normal hemoglobin. With how low my iron is, we suspect I have been struggling with low iron for years.
Symptoms of low iron include fatigue, pale skin, shortness of breath, dizzinessness, headaches, fast or irregular heartbeat, chest pain, cold feet and hands, brittle, cracked nails, spoon-shaped nails, hair loss, cracks inside your mouth, changes in your tongue, restless leg syndrome, anxiety, depression and more.
Turns out after learning more about low iron, I had almost every symptom possible—irregular heartbeat, occasional chest pain that I put off as heartburn. Hair loss, dizziness, fatigue, to name a few. The fatigue really started to set in after my husband, and I stopped drinking pop this February. I was flat-out exhausted, ready to sleep every day.
Low iron can be a hidden mystery. Generally, when people have low iron, they have other symptoms. Like their hemoglobin will also be low. Mine stayed perfect. Even today, It has never budged. This is why my doctors never wanted to check my iron levels. I eat a regular diet, with meat. All my other symptoms kept pointing to hormonal imbalances, despite nothing ever showing up.
Interestingly enough, after talking with a few doctors. Iron tests aren’t routine blood work (in Canada). Unless you have signs that your iron may be low, they often do not get run. If you have the symptoms I mentioned above, please, ask your doctor to run an iron test.
Without enough oxygen in your blood, and you may feel tired, weak, and short of breath. You get iron-deficiency anemia when your body is low in iron. You need iron to make hemoglobin, a protein that helps your red blood cells carry oxygen. Your doctor will find out why your iron is low. – WebMD, 2021
Low Iron Changes
Since my iron is low, I have been making some changes. Right now, I am taking iron pills once a day. Next week I start taking 1 pill daily and a second pill every other day. To work up to taking 2 pills daily. I am not taking 2 pills right off the bat to reduce iron pills’ side effects (Black stool, stomach cramps, constipation, nausea and vomiting).
I’ll continue this for three months If my iron levels are still brutally low. I’ll end up with an iron transfusion. Furthermore, I’ve been learning about what foods have iron and try my best to eat/drink more of them. It turns out, despite eating meat. I really wasn’t getting much iron from food in my diet. So here is to making changes to my diet and seeing how the next three months go.
Low Iron Conclusion
As you can see, low iron hides behind symptoms that are the exact same for dozens of other problems. My fatigue, weight gain, inability to lose weight, fast/irregular heart rate, headaches, and more were signs. But they all got missed despite having lots of blood work done over the last six years. It got missed due to iron tests not being a part of routine blood work.
I challenge you to advocate for yourself. If you’re feeling off, and the blood work is coming back with nothing. Get your doctor to run an iron test, even just for giggles. Ask if you have to get it added to your routine blood work yearly. It’s something I would have never guessed would have been an issue for me, but surely it is.
All the best. Turns out my chin hairs are genetic, Darn.
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