There is a reason why doctors prescribe iron supplements to women immediately after their pregnancy is confirmed. Low levels of iron can cause anemia and pregnant women are at a higher risk of developing the deficiency.
There are 400 different types of anemia, iron-deficiency is considered the most common cause behind it. Iron deficiency can affect the count of red-blood cells in the mother’s body and in turn affect the baby.
About 32 million women around the world suffer from iron deficiency. The daily iron intake for an adult is up to 60 milligrams. Pregnant women, on the other hand, are advised to keep the daily dose up to 66 milligrams with a minimum intake of 27 milligrams of iron per day.1
Why Iron Is So Important For The Body
Hemoglobin, an essential component of our blood plays a significant role in carrying oxygen throughout our body. In the term hemoglobin, heme or haem is related to iron whereas globin represents the protein that helps in transporting oxygen.
A decrease in hemoglobin levels means a lesser supply of oxygen in the body, which is one of the reasons of anemia. In pregnant women, iron deficiency, resulting in anemia has been known to cause preterm delivery. Using the data from the Centers for Disease Control, it was found that iron deficiency increases the risk of low birth weight in newborns by three times—whereas the risk of preterm delivery appears to double.2
A pregnant woman’s body essentially needs more iron as the body needs to produce excess blood to cater the needs of the developing fetus. To keep up the iron levels, it is important that mothers eat iron-rich foods every day or take iron supplements prescribed by their health advisor.
The study published in British Medical Journal states that women should include a daily intake of iron in their diet during pregnancy. The research mentioned that if the iron intake is increased by 10 milligrams, the risk of anemia reduces by 12% whereas the risk of low birth weight decreases by 3%.3
Symptoms Of Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy
The symptoms of anemia could be confused with pregnancy symptoms. Though mild in the beginning, they could worsen with time if the condition is left untreated.
Here are some common symptoms to look out for—dizziness, tiredness, pale skin, lips or nails, weakness, shortness of breath, low concentration and cold hands and feet.
Contact your doctor immediately if you could relate to these symptoms.
Foods Rich In Iron
There are two types of iron present in various food items. One kind is the heme iron which is easily absorbed by the body. Major sources of heme iron are meat and poultry—beef, chicken, pork, and salmon are foods rich in heme iron.
Non-heme iron is better absorbed by the body when it is consumed along with vitamin C sources like citrus fruit juices. Prime sources of non-heme iron include beans, broccoli, tofu, spinach, nuts and iron-fortified cereals
Foods That Hinder Iron Absorption
The iron absorption in your body could be hindered if you eat these foods along with iron-rich sources—tea, coffee, bran, and milk can inhibit iron absorption.
The iron deficiency is diagnosed using a blood test where they check your complete blood count (CMC), which also determines your hemoglobin levels.
Since keeping a track of your daily iron intake isn’t a practical approach, doctors recommend taking iron supplements during pregnancy to cut down the risk of iron deficiency.
|↑1||Iron.National Institutes Of Health|
|↑2||Scholl, Theresa O., Mary L. Hediger, Richard L. Fischer, and Joanne W. Shearer. “Anemia vs iron deficiency: increased risk of preterm delivery in a prospective study.” The American journal of clinical nutrition 55, no. 5 (1992): 985-988.|
|↑3||Wise, Jacqui. “Daily iron during pregnancy improves birth weight.” BMJ: British Medical Journal (Online) 346 (2013).|