Why is iron important in pregnancy?
During pregnancy, you need more iron than usual. Find out why you need iron and how you can boost your intake when pregnant.
Did you know that, while you are pregnant, your growing baby is drawing enough iron from your body’s reserves to last them for up to six months after birth? That’s not all. They also need iron in utero for growth and development.
For you, iron helps with the production of healthy red blood cells and prevents anaemia. This is a condition where the body cannot transport enough oxygen around the blood stream. Symptoms include fatigue and irritability, sensitivity to the cold and pale skin.
Given all of this, it is very important that you are getting enough iron during your pregnancy.
How much iron do I need?
During pregnancy, the recommended dietary intake (RDI) for iron is 27mg per day.
Don’t worry if you don’t get this amount of iron every day. Instead, aim for an average of 27mg per day over the course of a week. Some days – for example, when you have a steak for dinner – you may consume more iron than on other days.
What foods are good sources of iron?
To boost your iron intake, you should aim to add a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of iron-rich foods, such as:
- Red meat (remember to always cook meat thoroughly)
- Eggs (be sure to cook eggs until they are hot all the way through)
- Dried beans and lentils
- Green leafy vegetables
- Nuts and seeds
- Wholegrain breads and cereals
If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may need to pay more attention to your iron intake during pregnancy.
Vitamin C helps boost your absorption of iron, so try to add foods rich in this vitamin – like citrus fruits, red capsicum, kiwi fruit, or a glass of orange juice - to your daily meals, too. And be aware that caffeine can inhibit your absorption of iron, so avoid drinking tea, coffee and other caffeinated drinks around meal time.
You may have heard (correctly) that liver is a great source of iron. But because it has high levels of vitamin A – which is not advised during pregnancy – liver is best avoided during pregnancy.
Do I need iron supplements?
While it is possible to get your recommended intake of iron from diet alone, pregnant women sometimes need supplements. Speak to your healthcare professional if you’re at all concerned about whether you are getting enough iron – as you should only take iron supplements on your doctor’s advice.