Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Iron & Pregnancy


5. Iron-deficiency anemia during pregnancy is more common than you’d think. In fact, an estimated 1/3 to 1/2 of pregnant women have some level of iron deficiency. The best way to prevent iron-deficiency during pregnancy is to take a prenatal vitamin containing iron every day. Your midwife or OB-GYN will recommend blood tests to check your blood iron levels and may recommend additional iron supplements if your iron levels are low.

4. Iron-deficiency anemia has serious consequences during pregnancy. Individuals with iron-deficiency often experience feeling weak, chronically tired, lightheaded or dizzy, and can even have heart palpitations and shortness of breath. The impacts on the baby include elevated risk for pre-term birth, low birth weight, inadequate infant iron stores and may impact fetal brain development.

3. In addition to your prenatal vitamin, you can choose foods that contain highly-absorbable “heme” iron to your daily diet: lean beef, chicken, pork, fish, shellfish, and whole eggs. “Non-heme” iron is found in plant foods like nuts, beans, vegetables and fortified grains. Non-heme iron is harder to absorb than heme iron, but you can increase its absorption by adding some high-in-vitamin-C foods to the meal. For instance, have some homemade salsa made with tomatoes & lime juice along with chiles, onions and cilantro with your black beans. Vitamin C also helps absorption of supplemental iron, so a great plan would be to add a squeeze of fresh lemon juice to the water you take your prenatal vitamin with.

2. Do not take supplemental iron (i.e. your prenatal vitamin) with anything containing calcium. Calcium and iron bind together in the digestive track, preventing absorption of both. Make sure you wait at least two hours between any calcium supplements you take and your prenatal vitamin or other iron supplement. Also, avoid eating or drinking calcium-containing foods (like milk, yogurt, cheese or calcium-fortified foods) for two hours before and after taking supplemental iron. For example, if you take your prenatal vitamin at 6pm with dinner, you could have a glass of milk or a calcium chewy after 8pm. Caffeine and antacids also decrease iron absorption, so use the two hour separation rule here too.

1. The form of iron matters! Read your prenatal vitamin label and choose one that contains iron from ferrous bisglycinate, ferrous fumarate or ferrous gluconate. These are much better absorbed and tolerated than ferrous sulfate, which has the highest constipation risk.

Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Lindsay Pasdera

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