Why is iron important during pregnancy?
Iron is essential to life. It contributes to the reduction of tiredness and fatigue and plays an important role in normal energy metabolism, oxygen transport, cognitive function, immune function and formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin.
Pregnant women can benefit from taking an iron supplements if they are unable to fulfil their iron requirements through dietary intake alone.
Research data shows that pregnant women have an increased demand for iron due to an increase in blood volume.
Can I always get enough iron from my food during pregnancy?
You can get iron from food but it may not be absorbed well, and it may not be sufficient to meet your increased requirements during pregnancy.
There are two types of iron found in the diet, non-heme and heme. Non-heme iron is found in plants, nuts and legumes. This is absorbed at a much lower rate than heme iron, which is found in animal products such as meat, especially red meat.
It’s important to remember that even if you are making a conscious effort to ingest more heme iron, by eating meat, most health authorities recommend a safe upper intake of only 500g of red meat per week. Also, other daily habits like drinking tea and coffee after your meals can reduce iron absorption and reduce your iron intake.
How does pregnancy impact iron levels?
The amount of blood in your body when you are pregnant increases by about 30-50%. Iron needs are increased during pregnancy because the body uses iron to make extra blood to transport oxygen for the mother and her baby during this time.
Dietary iron requirements can increase to as much as 30mg of iron during pregnancy, especially in the second and third trimesters. This may mean supporting a healthy diet with iron supplements. This may mean supplementing a healthy diet with iron supplements, when daily iron needs cannot be met through diet alone.
However, food supplements are not a substitute for a varied diet and a healthy lifestyle. Also, you should not exceed the recommended daily supplement dose of iron without consulting your doctor or pharmacist.