How to increase Iron Intake during Pregnancy

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Written by: Co-Founder Amanda Capriglione, RDN, CDN

Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO

All nutrients are important to help develop a precious little human, but there are a few super important nutrients to be mindful of and iron happens to be one of them.

Iron is a mineral that your body uses to help make hemoglobin, which is a protein in red blood cells. The hemoglobin helps transport oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body and of course, you’re growing your baby’s body! If that wasn’t enough, iron also helps to support metabolism, carries oxygen to muscles, and removes carbon dioxide (a substance that we don’t want!) from the body.

Pregnant women need twice as much iron as their pre-pregnant selves. However, if you are trying to get pregnant, make sure you consume enough iron too! It’s amazing how a woman’s body adjusts to pregnancy because while we are making a human, that human is also making his/her own blood… thanks to that extra iron. Pregnant women need about 27 milligrams of iron daily when compared to non-pregnant women (age 19-50 years) who need about 18 milligrams of iron daily. Vegetarians or vegans may even need a little more iron. If you’re a member of our BUMPin Community (link to webpage) consult with our registered dietitian to learn more.

Low iron levels are pretty common in pregnant women, mostly because it can easily occur. Fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, and headache are results of low iron levels. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms we encourage you to reach out to your OB or registered dietitian ASAP. Something like fatigue is a “normal” pregnancy symptom but it’s always better to be safe rather than sorry, especially when you’re making a tiny human!

Luckily, it is pretty simple to get your iron intake from both plant and animal-based foods. Plus, most prenatal vitamins contain iron.

The two main forms of dietary iron are heme iron and non-heme iron. Animal foods like meat, seafood, and poultry contain both heme and non-heme iron. Plant-based foods like beans, spinach, and some fortified cereals contain only non-heme iron.

Iron absorption is where it can get a little tricky, especially when consuming non-heme (plant-based) iron sources. Our bodies (whether we are pregnant or not) readily absorb iron from animal protein. We need a little extra help from food containing vitamin C to absorb the iron in plant-based proteins. For example add lemon juice or some strawberries to your sautéed spinach or spinach salad, respectively.

It’s important to also take note that calcium (in dairy products and milk) and polyphenols (in coffee and tea) can block your body from absorbing iron. Have no fear mama, you can still enjoy that ice cream or a small cup of tea or coffee! It’s best to avoid drinking coffee/tea with foods high in iron and wait at least half an hour before consuming calcium-rich foods after consuming foods high in iron.

Mama, it can be a little tricky to navigate the “food world” while pregnant but have NO FEAR, feed mom and me is here to help you! It’s best to get a variety of different nutrients from different sources to ensure that you and your baby are getting your optimal nutrient intake. If you’d like to be the first to learn more about our products, click here.

References: Eat Right, Webmd