Everyone needs iron to keep healthy, but it is even more important for pregnant women because there are extra demands placed on the body during pregnancy. More iron is needed particularly after the first trimester to ensure that your baby develops healthily and goes to full term.
Why extra iron is needed in pregnancy
Iron is needed to make haemoglobin in the blood to carry oxygen around the body. In pregnancy, the amount of blood in your system is increased so you have nearly half as much again. This means that more iron is needed to make more haemoglobin. The baby also needs iron for its development, and the growth of a healthy placenta. Many women who become pregnant do not have sufficient stores of iron to begin with, so they need extra iron in the form of supplements.
The World Health Organisation recommends that pregnant women should have daily iron and folic acid supplementation to prevent them from becoming anaemic, having puerperal infections, producing a low birth weight baby or a preterm birth. This can be taken in tablet form or as a liquid iron supplement.
Pregnant women need 27 milligrams of iron a day, compared to the 18 milligrams needed by women who are not pregnant. This does not have to be a specific amount each day; it can be averaged over a few days or a week.
Sources of iron
A varied and balanced diet should contain enough iron for most people, but supplements can be needed during pregnancy. Some of the best sources of iron are red meat, seafood and poultry. Although liver contains a lot of iron it is best avoided during pregnancy because it also contains high levels of Vitamin A. Iron can also be found in vegetables, legumes and grains. Some animal protein added to a meal helps with the absorption of iron from other foods and Vitamin C, in the form of orange juice or broccoli, can also help with the absorption of iron from foods such as beans. Iron supplements are available from companies such as https://www.blueiron.co.uk/.
Iron supplements are most easily absorbed when the stomach is empty so they should not be taken with meals. They should not be taken with tea, coffee or milk either because this can also inhibit absorption.