When you are pregnant, your body’s requirement of iron increase because most of it is used in making extra blood in your body for your baby. Many women do not get enough iron intake during pregnancy and thus develop anaemia. It is very integral that you consume iron-rich foods during pregnancy to ward off the risk of iron deficiency.
Iron is an important mineral that you need to maintain in your diet during pregnancy to maintain the health of your baby and the blood supply in your body while you’re pregnant. So, read on to understand the benefits of iron during pregnancy. We will also tell you about the sources of iron for pregnancy which will help prevent anaemia. You need a particular amount of iron in your daily diet but be careful not to overtake iron tablets in pregnancy.
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Benefits Of Iron During Pregnancy
For a healthy pregnancy, you need to plan your diet in a way that it includes all the healthy nutrients that you and your baby require. Iron during pregnancy is one of the most important nutrients as it is needed by the body to increase the amount of blood as 30 to 50 per cent more volume is needed for the growing baby. A diet that does not contain vegetables high in iron or iron tablets in pregnancy can lead to its deficiency which in turn lead to complications in the pregnancy and also affects the health of both the mother and the baby.
An iron-rich diet in pregnancy will help with immunity of the mother. If the body lacks iron, it can cause dysfunction of the human immune system. Consuming iron during pregnancy also improves the flow of oxygen to the baby. Haemoglobin has iron which can bind itself to inhaled oxygen molecules and then, transport the molecules to every cell in your body. Also, if a mother is suffering from anaemia, iron supplements can reduce its intensity. Low levels of iron during pregnancy can be dangerous as there can be a risk of preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality. An iron deficit can also cause you to feel tired and a sense of fatigue. So, take enough iron for your body to prevent excessive tiredness and do it under doctor’s advice.
Foods High In Iron
Plenty of iron can be found in meats, poultry, plant-based foods and of course, in supplements. When it comes to iron foods for pregnancy, they provide two kinds of irons:
This is the type of iron that the body can absorb most easily. Foods high in iron of this kind include beef, chicken, turkey, and pork. Do note that although heme iron is easy to absorb, you shouldn't consume too much of it. Read more in the section: Side Effects Of Iron
This is the other type of iron which is present in beans, spinach, tofu, vegetables, dried fruits, eggs, whole grains and ready-to-eat-cereals which have added iron. If you are a vegetarian you should consume plenty of non-heme iron foods as this would be your only source of iron.
It is important for you to keep a watch on what you take along with iron. Be it iron supplements or iron-rich foods for pregnancy, if you accompany them with Calcium laden food, your body’s ability to absorb the iron gets reduced. Another good idea is to complement non-heme iron with Vitamin C. It is advisable to eat iron with a glass of orange juice or a tomato as this will help boost its absorption.
Normally, the body fulfils its consumption of iron through the foods high in iron. Vegetables high in iron include chickpeas, peas, chard, lamb’s lettuce etc. Beef liver, chicken livers, oysters, tuna, shrimp etc are also iron foods during pregnancy. Other sources include kidney beans, thyme, raisins, lentil, lima beans, soybeans, chanterelles etc.
Taking iron tablets in pregnancy is another way to fulfil your body’s iron demand. But if you are a vegetarian or vegan, you might not be able to fulfil the body’s requirement as you will not be able to consume poultry or meats that are rich in iron. Usually, iron tablets in pregnancy are a part of the prenatal supplement program that most women are on. It is required only when the body does not get enough iron from iron-rich foods. They are important for women who are suffering from anaemia. For others, it taking iron supplements during pregnancy is a preventive measure.
Recommended Iron For Pregnancy
According to WHO, oral iron and folic acid supplementation with 30 mg to 60 mg of elemental iron and 400 µg (0.4 mg) folic acid are recommended for pregnant women, in a day. This will help prevent maternal anaemia, puerperal sepsis, low birth weight, and preterm birth. During the time you're breastfeeding, you need at least 9 mg of iron every day if you're 19 or older. Breastfeeding moms who are 18 and younger need 10 mg of iron.
Lack of the recommended iron during pregnancy will, as said above, will cause anaemia which will make you feel exhausted. During Anemia, the body lacks sufficient amounts of red blood cells, which are required to carry oxygen throughout the body. Mild anaemia is normal in initial stages of pregnancy but due to increased blood volume, it is possible that severe anaemia may risk premature delivery and low birth weight. There are more chances of developing anaemia in case of multiple births. The symptoms of iron deficiency are fatigue, weakness, heart beating rapidly, lack of concentration, shortness of breath, pale skin, chest pain, lightheadedness, cold hands and feet.
The solution is to see a doctor who might prescribe you the iron tablets for pregnancy based on the test results. You should know that it might take months for your iron levels to go to normal but the improvement in health is visible within a few weeks.
Side Effects Of Iron
Increasing your iron consumption may initially cause constipation, even if you are trying to get it to the level of iron intake during pregnancy. Make sure you do not consume more than 45 milligrams of iron in a day as too much iron can increase the risk of developing gestational diabetes or oxidative stress.
Iron supplements are also known to initially cause gastrointestinal problems like constipation, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea. Do not take supplements on an empty stomach. Accompany them with a snack or take it during bedtime.
Iron is a very important part of a pregnant woman’s diet. It helps form the blood for the baby. Therefore, it is necessary to take appropriate iron intake during pregnancy. Many women who develop a deficiency of iron need to eat iron-rich foods in pregnancy or take appropriate supplements. It is normal for iron levels to come back to the right amount post-pregnancy. So, do not worry, consult your doctor and take a diet that is rich in all the nutrients.