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Iron During Pregnancy: Benefits, Quantity and Side Effects

Iron during pregnancy is extremely important and you might have known till now. As soon as the doctor tells you that you are pregnant, they give you a prescription for an iron supplement. Iron helps to make sure that your pregnancy goes smoothly and your baby develops healthily. This mineral is so vital for a baby’s growth, that as you proceed in your pregnancy the iron intake amount also increases. Let’s see what are the benefits and side effects of iron during pregnancy.

Having a low iron content can risk of developing anemia, preterm delivery and low baby weight. With these things in mind, it is necessary to fulfil your iron requirement during pregnancy. Check out the ways how you can do it-

Why is Iron So Important during Pregnancy?

Iron is an essential nutrient needed by human body. Whether you are pregnant or not, there should not be Iron deficiency in your body. The benefits of iron are-

  • Iron is responsible for the formation of haemoglobin. Haemoglobin is found in RBCs which carries the oxygen.
  • It is also necessary to strengthen the immune system.
  • Iron is a crucial component of myoglobin; it is a protein which supplies oxygen to muscles.

During Pregnancy, one needs Iron to meet following requirements-

1. Make extra haemoglobin-

Since you are pregnant, you need extra of everything as your baby will be sharing half of your body’s nutrients. During pregnancy, your body produces more blood and more blood means more haemoglobin, therefore extra iron.

2. Helps in baby’s growth-

Iron is very much needed for the baby’s growth especially during second and third trimester.

3. Fight off any complications during pregnancy-

Lack or deficiency of iron during pregnancy is linked to several complications. You may have to deal with preterm delivery, low birth weight, infant mortality etc.

How much Iron to consume during Pregnancy?

Now you know that why during pregnancy your body needs extra iron. But how much iron do you need to consume? In the total duration of nine months, your body needs a total of 800 mg of iron. From this 800, placenta takes up 300mg and maternal haemoglobin takes up 500mg.

But the iron requirement, increases slowly slowly. Like in first trimester you would only need 0.8mg per day, this increases to 6-7mg in later stage. If we take on the average that means you require 2-4.8 mg of iron every day.

To fulfil the above iron requirement, you need around 20-48 mg of iron for your body to absorb, the rest will be shed through skin, gut and urine.

Foods High in Iron content

Apart from taking up Iron supplements, you should also try to consume iron through your diet. There are many healthy snacks that you can consume during pregnancy that are rich in iron. There are two types of iron: Heme and Non-Heme iron.

Heme Iron is found in animal sources, and your body tends to absorb this iron type better.

Non Heme Iron is found in plant sources.

Foods Rich in Heme Iron Sources are-

  • Chicken Liver
  • Light Tuna, Oyesters
  • Lean Beef
  • Beef Liver
  • Chicken Liver
  • Pork Loin Chop
  • Turkey

Foods Rich in Non Heme Iron Sources are-

  • Instant Oatmeal
  • Chickpeas
  • Raisins
  • Lentils
  • Boiled Soybeans
  • Kidney Beans
  • Raw Tofu
  • Prune Juice
  • Whole Wheat Bread
  • Fortified Cereal

Bonus Tips to Meet Iron Requirements during Pregnancy

Now, you know the benefit of consuming iron, and the sources through which you can get iron. Apart from the above, some of the bonus tips to meet Iron requirements during pregnancy are-

  • Do not consume caffeine with meals. Caffeine interferes with the iron absorption.
  • Consume food that are rich in Vitamin C such as oranges, strawberry, broccoli etc.
  • Calcium interferes with the absorption of iron, so space out the gap between iron and calcium supplements.
  • Try to add fish or meat in your diet, they help in the absorption of iron.
  • Use a cast iron pan for cooking whenever you can. This helps to absorb the iron and get you some amount.
  • Take the iron supplements in appropriate dose. Even if you skip taking the iron supplements one day, do not take two on the next day.
  • With iron supplements, try to consume more of fiber rich food, for the easy digestion.

Side Effects of too much of Iron

If you do not get enough iron, then you will feel-

  • Tiredness
  • Lowered work capacity
  • Cardiovascular stress
  • Iron deficiency Anemia
  • Decreased resistance to infections.

However, excess of everything is bad. There are some side effects of too much iron. You can have maximum of 45 mg of iron per day, if you take more than this, than it can increase iron levels in both mom and child making it risky of-

  • Gastrointestinal issues such as nausea and constipation.
  • Miscarriage with preeclampsia.
  • Imbalance in the body.
  • Oxidative stress or gestational diabetes.

What is the Best Time to take Iron Tablets during Pregnancy?

The best time to take Iron tablets is empty stomach that is on or two hours before the meals, as it gets absorbed properly in an empty stomach.

Taking the supplement with other foods like milk, cheese, coffee, whole grains and yogurt can decrease the value.         

So, these are some of the facts about taking iron during pregnancy. Apart from supplements the best way is to try eating iron-rich food, to fulfil the quantity of iron.

Remember, both you and your baby needs iron to remain healthy and have a healthy pregnancy.

How did you fulfill your iron intake?

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