Iron is one of the crucial minerals required for the development of your baby. Even when you are not pregnant, your body needs iron to carry oxygen to all the organs and tissues in the body.
Here are the answers to a few questions on iron intake during pregnancy that might cross your mind.
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1. Why My Body Requires Iron?
The body needs iron to synthesize a protein called hemoglobin. This substance, present in your blood transports the oxygen throughout the body, and even to your baby across the placenta. As the requirements of your body increase during pregnancy, so does the blood supply. The right quantity of iron intake ensures an adequate blood supply to cater to the needs of the baby as well as the mother’s body.
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2. How Much Should My Everyday Intake Be?
The recommended daily iron intake is around 17-18.9 milligrams per day women, who are older than 19 years. Pregnant women need almost double the amount of iron—27 milligrams per day. According to a survey conducted by the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) from 1999-2006, 18% of pregnant women in the United States had iron deficiency.1
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3. How To Find Out If I Have Iron Deficiency?
One of the initial steps is doing a blood test to check the hemoglobin levels which are between 12-15.5 grams for a healthy woman. Symptoms of iron deficiency include weakness, fatigue, breathlessness, and dizziness—these can also be mistaken for signs of morning sickness, especially during the first trimester. Many women don’t realize they are anemic until they do a blood test. There are more symptoms to look out for if you have anemia—tongue swelling, cold hands and feet, faster or irregular heartbeat, brittle nails and persistent headaches.
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4. What Are The Risks Of Iron Inadequacy?
Your body gives out the warning signs of anemia through symptoms of iron deficiency. In extreme cases, it can result in an increased risk of premature births, lower birth weight in infants and even infant and maternal mortality2.
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5. How To Add More Iron To My Diet?
If you are anemic, your doctor will recommend taking supplements to increase iron levels in your body. Along with that, include iron-rich foods in your diet—lean meat like chicken and pork, seafood, nuts, beans, fortified grains and green leafy vegetables like spinach. Here are the foods that can help you fight anemia.
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6. Will My Iron Levels Drop After Pregnancy?
The good news is that post pregnancy, your iron levels will come back to normal levels. If you had an adequate iron intake during pregnancy, your breast-milk will sufficiently supply it for the baby’s needs up to 4-6 months. But, if you are still anemic, you must eat iron-rich foods as insufficient iron in the breast-milk can impair your babies growth and development.
Poor diet, blood disorders or malabsorption can be the possible reasons of anemia due to iron deficiency. It is advised to consult your doctor if you experience the above-mentioned symptoms. Self-diagnosis and self-treatment are bad practices and can induce negative effects if the iron in your blood exceeds certain levels.