Iron is an important mineral found in several enzymes and proteins that the human body needs to stay healthy. The iron in our body is mostly present inside hemoglobin which is the pigment in RBCs. Hemoglobin performs the role of transporting oxygen to various organs and tissues in the body. So, when there isn’t sufficient iron in a person’s blood, the supply of oxygen to the cells also decreases. Pregnant women are more vulnerable to deficiency of iron due to various changes taking place in the female body during this stage. That explains why iron supplements for pregnancy are beneficial as iron is needed to make blood and supply oxygen to the baby.
Does this mean all women should start taking iron supplements after they conceive? What do doctors say about iron absorption during pregnancy? We will answer all your questions regarding maternal iron requirements and what to do to increase iron stores naturally.
The Advantages of Iron Supplementation During Pregnancy
Curious to discover the benefits of iron supplements? The first thing that you must understand is that a pregnant woman’s body needs more iron than a woman who isn’t pregnant. There is a high demand for iron in your body to supply oxygen to the fetus constantly.
Iron will also increase the red cell mass in the mother, decrease the chances of maternal morbidity, and promote fetal development. Studies have revealed that iron deficiency has been linked with multiple adverse outcomes of pregnancy. So, every woman should aim to maintain iron sufficiency throughout her pregnancy. if your iron stores aren’t as expected, you will end up developing iron deficiency anemia, and then oral iron supplementation will be required. That’s the importance of iron in pregnancy.
How Much Iron During Pregnancy Does Your Body Need?
According to healthcare professionals, to combat iron deficiency in pregnancy, all pregnant ladies should be mindful of iron absorption. 20-30 mg of iron in a day is the standard iron dosage for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms.
Quick Tip: You can increase your body’s iron absorption by having citrus fruits (like oranges) as they contain vitamin C. Vitamin C assists your body in absorbing iron and broccoli is another good source of it.
Should All Women Take Iron Supplements for Pregnancy?
If the iron levels in a pregnant woman’s body are normal, taking an iron supplement is not mandatory. You can meet your body’s iron requirement by consuming foods containing iron. However, if you are a vegetarian, it will be challenging to get an adequate amount of iron and other nutrients like protein solely from your diet. That’s because vegan and vegetarian diets have several limitations and can, therefore, lead to deficiencies. To eliminate the chances of pregnancy complications (like birth defects in the baby), vegetarians are recommended some supplements by their doctors.
Word of Caution: Like any medication, you should always keep your iron tablets out of the reach of kids. Although iron is a natural mineral, an overdose of it can be life-threatening for kids.
Who Must Take Iron Supplements During Pregnancy?
Anyone with low iron will have to take the help of supplemental iron to ensure optimal nutrition during pregnancy. So, if you have been diagnosed with iron-deficient anemia, then you should not discontinue taking the iron supplement your doctor prescribes. That’s because maternal anemia can affect the well-being of the fetus or the newborn.
In extreme cases where an iron and folic acid supplement does not give the desired result, iron therapy is the only option.
What Type of Iron Supplement Is the Best?
There are many types of iron supplements but not all are equally effective. Most people take an iron supplement containing ferrous sulfate as it makes the absorption of iron easy. You should still talk to your physician before ordering a supplement.
Which Foods Should We Eat to Increase Iron Levels Naturally?
Several foods that we consume already have iron. Red meat, for instance, is loaded with iron. If you don’t have red meat or non-veg food, you can rely on other natural iron sources for pregnancy.
So, green leafy vegetables such as spinach and lettuce should also be a part of your pregnancy diet. Tofu, strawberries, tuna, shrimps, sesame, chickpeas, whole-grain rice, peas, thyme, whole-grain pasta, iron-fortified breakfast cereals, kiwis, and oats are some incredible sources of heme and non-heme iron.
Why Consult Your Doctor Before Taking Iron Supplements?
As far as iron intake is concerned, finding a balance is crucial. Just like too little iron, large amounts of iron can be equally unhealthy for you and your baby. Although the human body is capable of storing extra iron, over-intake of it daily can cause problems. Some side effects of iron supplements include gastrointestinal problems such as nausea, diarrhea, vomiting, and constipation.
So, the best thing to do is go for monthly check-ups to know if there is iron deficiency and anemia or if your hemoglobin levels are normal. Based on the test results revealing your body’s iron status, your doctor will tell you if taking an iron supplement will be essential. They will also suggest which iron-rich prenatal vitamins you can take as there are many available in the market.
You can also get in touch with an accomplished dietician who will prepare a customized diet chart keeping in mind all the vital nutrients mandatory to maintain optimal pregnancy health.
The Bottom Line
So, we shared everything you needed to know about fulfilling your body’s iron needs and considering prenatal iron supplementation. Are you confident that you get enough iron from the food you consume every day? If you are clueless, opt for a blood test to know if you can stick to your usual diet or if there is any risk of iron-deficient anemia.
Frequently Asked Questions1.
1. What are the benefits of taking iron supplements during pregnancy?
A: Iron supplements for pregnancy are the best way to ensure the body gets a sufficient amount of iron and thus prevent iron deficiency anemia
2. How much iron should a pregnant woman take daily?
A: For managing anemia in pregnancy, an individual should have 20-30 mg of iron per day. If your food can’t give you that, you will need an iron supplement.