It’s no secret that women need to focus more on their nutrition intake while expecting a baby. Since everything you eat during pregnancy will affect your child’s health, it is important to eat a balanced diet that involves all the essential vitamins and minerals.
Iron is one such mineral that’s extremely vital during pregnancy so much so that your body will need twice the amount of Iron you were consuming earlier. In a conversation with one of the gynecologists at ‘Hera’, we came to know about the different ways to incorporate Iron in your daily meals and avoid the deficiency of Iron in your body.
First and foremost; let’s understand why Iron is required during pregnancy. In general, Iron is a mineral that generates hemoglobin in the red blood cells. Hemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to the other parts of the body.
However, during pregnancy, your body will also produce hemoglobin for the baby and that’s why it’ll need comparatively more Iron than earlier. It is worth noting that if you don’t take enough Iron during pregnancy, you are most likely to develop anemia, a health condition that’s caused due to lack of healthy red blood cells in the body.
While several reasons can cause Anemia in pregnancy, Iron deficiency remains at the top of the list. When you don’t fulfill the increased demand for iron in the body, it’ll automatically generate less hemoglobin, thereby causing Anemia.
Pro Tip: During pregnancy, make sure to undergo regular blood tests to ensure your body has an optimal hemoglobin level. The recommended hemoglobin level for women ranges between 12-16g/DL..- HERA
You must take at least 27mg  of iron each day during pregnancy. Keep in mind this iron concentration is comparatively higher than what your body needs normally (18mg). It means that when you are pregnant, you must consume iron-rich food to prevent iron deficiency in the body.
When it comes to adding Iron in your daily diet, you have two different options to choose from, i.e., heme iron and non-heme iron.
Heme iron is derived from different types of meat products such as chicken, seafood, turkey, and pork. If you are a non-vegetarian, it would become much easier to consume an adequate amount of Iron as the body absorbs heme iron more rapidly.
Non-Heme Iron, on the other hand, is usually derived from plant-based products such as beans, tofu, whole-grain & iron-based breakfast cereals. Even though non-heme iron is as beneficial as heme iron, it takes more time for the body to absorb iron derived from plant-based products.
Let’s take a look at different food items that’ll help you fulfill the iron requirement in pregnancy. We have separated heme and non-heme iron sources so that you can easily choose the right food items as per your daily diet.
Food Items that are rich in heme iron include
● Red Meat (1.5mg of iron in every 100 grams serving)
● Chicken (1.5mg of iron in every 200 grams serving)
● Eggs (1.2mg of iron in every 100 grams serving)
● Seafood (0.8mg of iron in every 100 grams serving)
● Oyster (2mg of iron in every 100 grams serving)
Apart from these food items, fish is an excellent source of iron as well. Each serving of salmon contains almost 1.6mg of iron. Other varieties of fish provide a varied concentration of iron, ranging from 1.2mg-1.8mg.
● Spinach (3mg of iron in every ½ cup of serving)
● Iron-Fortified Cereal (Varied quantity of iron)
● Brussels Sprouts (1mg of iron in every cup of serving)
● Broccoli (1mg of iron in every cup of serving)
● Dice Potatoes (1.2mg of iron in every cup of serving)
● Tofu (3mg of iron in every ½ cup of serving)
All the vegetables  are naturally a good source of iron and folic acids. Eating 2-4 servings of vegetables each day will make it easier to maintain the required iron concentration in your body.
Pro Tip: If you are a vegan or vegetarian, nutritionists at ‘Hera’ recommend taking Vitamin-C foods along with non-heme iron as this will increase the overall iron absorption rate..- HERA
Taking iron supplements is extremely useful if you are suffering from anemia. Moreover, if you are a vegetarian, iron supplements will be a good choice as a vegetarian diet lacks in providing the required amount of iron to the body.
Consult your doctor as he/she’ll tell you the right dosage of iron supplements you should take daily. It is important to take the recommended dose of supplements as the overconsumption of iron can also cause severe health problems. However, if you don’t have a low hemoglobin level and your iron intake is adequate, supplements won’t provide any additional benefits to your body.
Pro Tip: We recommend taking iron supplements along with folic acids as they can prevent various birth ailments in your child. Consult your doctor for the appropriate dosage..- HERA
If you’re planning to take iron tablets for pregnancy, it is recommended to start your course at the end of the third month of gestation. It’s also worth noting that milk, coffee, tea, and all dairy products block the proper absorption of iron.
So, if you are taking iron supplements, you should avoid these products. During the course, you should also start eating more Vitamin-C based food items as they’ll help your body absorb iron faster.
“Iron tablets don’t go well with other drugs that you might be taking during pregnancy. So, make sure to wait for at least 2 hours between taking iron supplements and your regular medicines”.
While supplements can help you get enough iron, you should not take more than 45mg of iron in a day. Overconsumption of iron can cause gastrointestinal side-effects. Usually the Some of side-effects of taking more iron, than what your body needs, include:
So, if you experience any of the above symptoms, make sure to reduce the iron intake or consult your doctor immediately.
We hope that this guide helped you understand the importance of iron for pregnancy. No doubt, iron is among the most vital minerals during pregnancy. When you take the required amount of iron every day, it’ll keep your baby healthy and protect you from several health conditions as well. What are your favorite iron rich foods? Let us know