Are you getting iron for your pregnancy health and your baby’s development?

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, and your iron needs increase during pregnancy. In fact, about half of all pregnant women don’t get enough iron. What’s going on?

During pregnancy, blood volume increases, as does the need for healthy red blood cells to support both you and your baby. To sustain more red blood cell production, your body needs almost twice as much iron. If you’re not taking in enough through your diet and/or a prenatal supplement, you may fall short of your target iron level. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia.

 

Why Iron Is Important for You and Your Baby

Your body needs iron to support enough healthy red blood cells to carry out their biggest role: carrying oxygen throughout your body. During pregnancy you need many, many more red blood cells to carry oxygen to your baby as well. Iron also helps support your baby’s growth, and brain development. What can happen when you don’t get the iron levels you need?

  • Pregnant women who are anemic might be more likely to have a premature birth (giving birth before 37 weeks) and delivering a baby with a low birth weight (less than 5 pounds, 8 ounces at birth).
  • Iron deficiency in infants and children can lead to learning difficulties if not treated.

Getting the Iron You Need

Experts recommend that pregnant women get 27mg of iron a day. Good sources include:

  • Lean red meat
  • Iron-fortified cereal
  • Eggs
  • Poultry
  • Dried beans and lentils
  • Seafood, such as clams, oysters, and sardines
  • Prenatal supplement that has iron

One key thing to know about iron: Heme iron is more readily absorbed than non-heme iron and is present in meat, fish and poultry. Eating foods or drinking beverages high in vitamin C helps your body absorb iron from non-heme sources. These are good options:

  • Orange juice
  • Tomatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Grapefruit

How to Watch for Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy

Some of the signs of iron deficiency that you may spot:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Chest pain
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin

Can You Get Too Much Iron?

You now know low iron levels in pregnancy can lead to health issues. Well, the same can be said for iron levels that are too high.

Your doctor will check your iron levels in pregnancy at least once as part of standard prenatal tests. But it’s smart to speak up if you have concerns about your iron level or notice issues that could indicate a deficiency or anemia.