Why is iron important for you and your baby?
Iron is an essential component of hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body and to your fetus. That is why iron is especially important during your pregnancy when the volume of blood in your body increases by almost 1.5 litersi.
You should be eating more iron-rich foods throughout your pregnancy to avoid anemia due to iron deficiencyii. Pregnant woman has a higher risk for developing anemia due to the increased blood formation. Anemia is a condition in which the body doesn’t produce enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your body’s tissues. When little oxygen is carried to your tissues, you will feel tired and weak, and look pale. Your growing fetus’ oxygen supply will also be affected.
Your baby also needs iron to make red blood cells too, otherwise he/she will not thrive. Iron deficiency during pregnancy can therefore put your baby at risk for premature birth and low birth weightiii.
Iron is also essential for your fetus’ brain development and is necessary for necessary for brain processes such as myelination, neurotransmitter production, and energy metabolismiv.
Iron also plays a part in supporting your immune systemv and helps keep you free of sickness during pregnancy.
How much iron supplement do you need during pregnancy?
As pregnant woman may not be able to meet the increased iron requirement from dietary sources alone and due to difficulties in correctly assessing iron status during pregnancy, the World Health Organization recommends that pregnant women take a daily supplement containing 30 to 60 mg of elemental iron.vi
Always remember to talk to your doctor first before taking supplements during your pregnancy.
Which food can you and your baby get iron from?
There are plenty of good foods you can eat to get iron from:
Meat (such as chicken and beef)
Fish (especially sardines and tuna)
Dark green leafy vegetables (such as spinach or kale)
Fruits (such as watermelon, raisins, and apricots)
Beans (kidney, lentils, soy and peas)
Consuming food or drinks rich in vitamin C (such as citrus fruits) with your meal also helps your body to absorb iron from these iron-rich foods better.
i Chandra, S., Tripathi, A. K., Mishra, S., Amzarul, M., & Vaish, A. K. (2012). Physiological Changes in Hematological Parameters During Pregnancy. Indian Journal of Hematology & Blood Transfusion, 28(3), 144–146. http://doi.org/10.1007/s12288-012-0175-6
ii Iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy: Prevention tips. (2017, February 15). Retrieved April 25, 2017, from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/anemia-during-pregnancy/art-20114455
iii Daily iron and folic acid supplementation during pregnancy. (n.d.). Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://www.who.int/elena/titles/guidance_summaries/daily_iron_pregnancy/en/
iv Georgieff, M. K. (2007) Nutrition and the developing brain: nutrient priorities and measurement. Am J Clin Nutr. 85(2):614S-620S.
v Fergus, C. (2003, May 1). Where Iron and Immunity Intersect. Retrieved April 10, 2017, from http://news.psu.edu/story/140743/2003/05/01/research/where-iron-and-immu...
vi World Health Organization, WHO recommendations on antenatal care for a positive pregnancy experience. Geneva: WHO Press. 2016.