How Much Iron Does a Pregnant Woman Need?

Your body needs iron, even if you’re not pregnant. Iron does many good things: it helps your body make hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen to other cells, and that’s one of the things that keeps you alive. It also helps make myoglobin, which supplies oxygen to your muscles, and collagen, that makes your bones and cartilage strong. It’s also instrumental in creating enzymes, and keeps your immune system strong. Iron is obviously very important in your body at any time during your life, but especially when you are pregnant.

Why Is Iron Needed During Pregnancy?

A woman needs iron during pregnancy to help the baby grow, especially during the second and third trimesters. Your baby will demand a lot of iron to maintain the placenta and the fast growth it is going through. You also need iron to help your body build up more hemoglobin, the importance of which is explained as above. Here’s an interesting fact: The amount of blood in your body actually increases dramatically during pregnancy, until you have almost 50 percent more than usual. All that blood needs extra iron to continue producing enough hemoglobin.

How Much Iron Does a Pregnant Woman Need?

The average pregnant woman needs about 27 milligrams of iron every day. Compare that to the 18 mg that a woman needs when she is not pregnant. A woman who is anemic at the start of pregnancy might need more, and women who have too much iron in the blood at the start of pregnancy might need less. Only your doctor can tell you for certain just how much iron you need when you are pregnant.

Should You Take an Iron Supplement?

When it comes to asking “how much iron does a pregnant woman need,” you might get advice on taking supplements. Some women choose to get all their iron through their diet, and this is always a good thing – iron is absorbed more easily through food. However, some women just can’t get enough through their diet, and at that point a supplement might be a good idea.

Your doctor will likely prescribe prenatal vitamins for you. These contain enough iron for a pregnant woman, as well as many other minerals necessary for the growing baby. Don’t take supplements in addition to this unless your doctor advises you to do so.

Can You Get too Much Iron?

It is possible to get too much iron. This typically happens when you take an iron supplement in addition to a prenatal vitamin, and while eating a diet high in iron. Too much iron in the blood can cause problems for you and your baby, including the development of oxidative stress or gestational diabetes. These problems are linked to other issues, such as preeclampsia, miscarriage and infertility. High levels of iron in the blood can also lead to high blood pressure, heart disease and asthma, as some studies have shown over the years. That’s why you should never take iron supplements on your own – always ask your doctor first.

Why Should You Worry About Iron Deficiency?

Anemia is the medical term for iron deficiency. Women who have low iron levels – about one in every five – can face serious issues, such as premature birth, low birth weight of their baby, or even problems, such as reduced fetal organ growth. These issues can lead to serious problems for the baby at birth.

Anemia usually presents with excessive tiredness – you might feel utterly exhausted all the time, but there is no clear reason why. You might have shortness of breath, feel irritable or weak, and even have a lack of motivation to do much of anything. You might have headaches or have a weakened immune system, so you get sick more often. If you are breastfeeding while you have anemia, you might notice a milk supply that isn’t enough for your baby, plugged milk ducts, mastitis, and sore nipples that take a long time to heal.

How to Get Proper Amount of Iron During Pregnancy

When you figure out the question: how much iron does a pregnant woman need, then start getting proper amount iron during pregnacy! Keep in mind that there are two types of iron: non-heme iron, which is found in most of the foods you eat, including plants, nuts, poultry and fish; heme iron, which is found only in products from animals. Non-heme iron is less well absorbed, which means that vegetarians and vegans might have an extra-tough time getting enough of it. If you aren’t getting enough of both types of iron, talk to your doctor about supplements that can help your baby stay strong.

1. Red Meat

image001Though many doctors tell you not to eat too much red meat when you aren’t pregnant, once you are carrying a baby, red meat becomes an essential source of iron. It’s one of the best sources – just avoid the livers, because that’s filled with too much Vitamin A to be safe for you when you’re pregnant. If animal protein isn’t possible for you, try eating plenty of veggies, grains and legumes.

2. Spinach

image002Spinach is a powerhouse of iron, and it’s a great way to make sure you get plenty of it in your diet. Keep in mind that you can get this in a variety of ways, including in fresh salads, in spinach an artichoke dips, in soups and other interesting ways. Try to get some spinach in at least one meal each day.

Watch a video to learn more about healthy ways to get iron:

3. Other Iron-rich Foods

Make sure to get plenty fruits, fortified cereals, wholegrain bed and green veggies. Other options include dried fruits, like prunes and raisins, egg yolks, mollusks, beans, lentils, chick peas, soybeans, artichokes, and turkey or chicken giblets.

4. Other Important Notes to Help with Iron Absorption

Finally, remember that there are a few other things to know about iron intake during pregnancy.

  • Just as you need plenty of iron, you also need lots of Vitamin C to help the iron absorb into your body.
  • Caffeine, however, can have the opposite effect, and can inhibit your body’s absorption of iron.
  • You can also lose iron in cooking, so why not try using cast iron skillets and pans? They actually add iron back into the food.
  • Finally, don’t forget that extra iron in the diet can make you constipated, so a stool softener might be a good idea for those women who have a problem with this.