Iron During PregnancyPublished:
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Nicole Palmer, DO
During pregnancy, iron is a vital nutrient needed for a healthy pregnancy. Iron is critical for baby's growth and supports your baby's developing blood supply, as well as your own. Low Iron during pregnancy effects the baby and can be reduced by taking a prenatal vitamin with iron or iron supplements during pregnancy if the prenatal lacks iron.
But how much iron do you need during pregnancy? This mineral daily recommended intake nearly doubles when you're expecting. Low iron stores can increase your risk of developing anemia in pregnancy, and severe iron deficiency during pregnancy can increase your risk of premature birth or low birthweight.
We will be discussing everything you need to know about iron during pregnancy and which foods are high in iron.
★ WHY IS IRON IMPORTANT DURING PREGNANCY?
Around 70 percent of iron is found in our red blood cells. Our bodies use iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues and organs. Pregnant women need double the amount of iron compared to nonpregnant women. Iron (and folic acid) is required to produce more blood and help carry oxygen to your developing baby.
During fetal development, iron plays an extreme role in organ development, especially in the brain. Research suggests that iron is essential to the hippocampus part of the brain, which is rapidly developing during the third trimester. (1) The hippocampus plays a major role in learning and memory.
★ HOW MUCH IRON DURING PREGNANCY?
A pregnant woman's body calls for 27 mg of iron absorption per day, compared to the 18mgs for nonpregnant women. Most prenatal vitamins include a sufficient amount of iron to cover the increased demand your body needs. A prenatal vitamin with iron helps prevent anemia, which is common in pregnancy due to the increased demand for blood production.
The only way to determine if you have low iron in blood during pregnancy is through a blood test. It is easy to prevent by consuming plenty of iron-rich foods (like eating meat), and if recommended by your healthcare provider, adding a daily iron pill during pregnancy.
★ WHICH TRIMESTER IS IRON MOST IMPORTANT?
Iron absorption is vital at the moment of conception and even more during each trimester. Iron requirements during your first-trimester decrease due to no blood loss from the stop of menstruation. (2)
Iron requirements begin to increase during your second trimester and continue to do so throughout postpartum dues to blood loss during childbirth. The increase in oxygen consumption by both mom and developing baby is associated with this increased need for iron. (3)
As pregnancy progresses in the third trimester, iron requirements for fetal growth steadily rise in proportion to the weight of the fetus. (4)
★ WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF LOW IRON DURING PREGNANCY?
Iron-deficiency anemia signs and symptoms include:
- Cold hands and feet
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Irregular heartbeats
- Chest pain
Symptoms of anemia are often similar to common pregnancy symptoms. Your health care provider will be conducting blood tests to screen for low iron during pregnancy, regardless of whether or not you have symptoms. If you're concerned about feeling fatigue or any other symptoms, talk to your health care provider.
★ BEST TIME TO TAKE IRON TABLETS DURING PREGNANCY
The best way to ensure that your body completely absorbs iron is to take the pill in the morning on an empty stomach, an hour or so before breakfast, or two hours after a meal. Iron is most effective when taken on an empty stomach, but you may need to take iron with food to avoid an upset stomach.
Do not drink milk or caffeine drinks (such as coffee, tea, or cola) at the same time or within 2 hours of the time that you take your iron. That is because foods such as milk, tea, and coffee generally inhibit the absorption of iron.
Make sure you stay hydrated when taking iron supplements to avoid constipation. Check out our blog for tips on staying hydrated during pregnancy!
★ HOW CAN I INCREASE MY IRON LEVELS DURING PREGNANCY?
Good nutrition is one of the best ways to increase iron levels during pregnancy. Your body most easily absorbs iron from animal products, such as meat. Research suggests that vitamin C enhances iron absorption by six times. (5)
Your cookware can also increase iron in your food. Cast iron posts can add up to 80 percent more iron to your food. Researchers found that the effects of iron absorption from cookware depend on your age, the size of the pot, the type of food you cook, how long you cook, and even the age of the cookware. 
★ IRON RICH FOODS DURING PREGNANCY
- Lean Meat, and Poultry.
- Iron-fortified Breakfast Cereals and Bread.
- Legumes, such as White Beans, Lentils, Spinach, Kidney Beans, Peas, and Edamame.
- Dried Fruits, such as Raisins, Apricots, Peaches, and Prunes.
- Leafy Greens, such as Spinach, Kale, Broccoli, and Collards Greens.
★ BEST PRENATAL VITAMINS WITH IRON
One of the best over-the-counter prenatal vitamins during pregnancy is Feed Mom & Me Complete Prenatal with DHA. It contains 18 mg of iron, Ferrous Fumarate.
This prenatal is formulated by an OBGYN & Registered Dietitian, containing all the nutrients needed to conceive and during pregnancy. Each small and easy-to-swallow pill is packed with 22 key natural nutrients to provide nutritional support for you and your growing baby. It contains Folate (methyl folate form), DHA, Iron, Calcium, Choline, Biotin, Zinc, Magnesium, and Selenium.
The vegetarian formula is free of artificial colors or flavors, chemicals, preservatives, non-GMO, dairy, soy, or gluten-free. Each of their capsules contains B6, Organic Ginger, and Peppermint Powder, which can help alleviate morning sickness and nausea.
Adding to that, it is a women-owned company. Who better than a female would understand pregnancy!
- Krebs NF, Lozoff B, Georgieff MK: Neurodevelopment: the impact of nutrition and inflammation during infancy in low-resource settings. Pediatrics 2017;139:S50-S58.
- Hallberg L, Rossander-Hultén L. Iron requirements in menstruating women. Am J Clin Nutr 1991;54:1047–58.
- Bothwell TH, Charlton RW, Cook JD, Finch CA. Iron metabolism in man. Oxford, United Kingdom: Blackwell Scientific Publications, 1979.
- Widdowson EM, Spray CM. Chemical development in utero. Arch Dis Child 1951;26:205–14.