Iron Needs During Pregnancy: Why It’s Essential and How to Ensure Adequate Intake
- Posted on: Sep 21 2023
Iron, an essential mineral, plays a central role in making hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen to tissues. During pregnancy, the demand for iron increases significantly to support the mother’s expanding blood volume and fetal development. We’re going to take a look atthe significance of iron during pregnancy, the potential risks of deficiency, signs to watch out for, and the best sources to meet the increased needs.
During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume expands by almost 50%. This increase means a higher demand for iron to help produce more hemoglobin. Iron supports the growth of the placenta and fetus, playing a vital role in the baby’s brain development.
Adequate iron intake helps prevent iron-deficiency anemia, a condition where the body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen efficiently. Anemia can lead to premature birth and other complications. A primary symptom of iron deficiency, fatigue can impact daily functioning and overall well-being. Iron deficiency can lead to increased risks for preterm delivery, low birth weight, and maternal mortality. Babies born to mothers with iron-deficiency anemia are more likely to develop learning and behavioral difficulties as they grow.
It is important to diagnose iron deficiency early, so it’s crucial to consult a healthcare provider if you notice extreme fatigue or weakness, pale skin and mucous membranes, shortness of breath, dizziness or lightheadedness, cold hands and feet, rapid or irregular heartbeat, or brittle nails and hair loss.
Your healthcare provider will do a blood test to determine your iron levels and suggest increasing your iron intake, if the levels are low. Iron can be found in many foods, like red meat, poultry, and fish, especially sardines, tuna, and salmon. Plant sources of iron include fortified cereals, legumes, including lentils, chickpeas, and beans, leafy greens like spinach, kale, and chard. Nuts and seeds as well as tofu and soy products are also good sources of iron. To enhance iron absorption from plant-foods, combine them with vitamin C-rich sources like oranges, strawberries, or tomatoes.
Iron is crucial during pregnancy to support the body’s increased blood volume, the baby’s development, and to prevent complications. Recognizing the signs of deficiency and ensuring a diet rich in iron sources can pave the way for a healthier pregnancy.
For more information, please talk to your healthcare provider.
National Institutes of Health. https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Iron-HealthProfessional/