Iron is a nutrient that is vital for the proper function and development of the human body. This makes it important to ensure that you are getting the recommended amount each day. During pregnancy, it is even more vital to get this nutrient because you are also providing it to your growing child. In fact, it is recommended that expecting mothers get even more of this nutrient than women who are not expecting. In this article, we’ll cover how iron affects pregnancy and the dangers of not getting enough.
What Is Iron?
Iron is a mineral that is needed in the body for proper growth and development. The body uses it to make hemoglobin which is a protein in red blood cells that helps carry oxygen to different parts of the body. It is also used to make myoglobin, a protein that helps provide oxygen to the muscles and hormones too. According to the National Institutes of Health, pregnant women need to get 27 mg (milligrams) of iron in their diet each day. This can either come from the food you eat, or from supplements.
How Iron Affects Pregnancy
As mentioned above, the main use of iron during pregnancy is for proper growth and development of your child’s body. However, many pregnant women find that they are deficient in iron. This is a result of there being more blood in the mother’s body during pregnancy. This means that the percentage of iron in the blood is lower, and this can cause a deficiency.
Iron Deficiency & Pregnancy
Anemia is a condition where there are not enough red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the entire body. Iron deficiency is the main cause of anemia and results in red blood cells being unable to carry oxygen. Some symptoms of anemia are;
- Accelerated heartbeat
- Difficulty concentrating
- Pale skin
- Chest pain
- Cold hands & feet
One thing to note about anemia is that mild-anemia is common in pregnant women due to the increased amount of blood in their bodies. However, if this is left untreated, it can lead to severe anemia which can cause other health complications.
According to the National Institutes of Health, some health complications that anemia and severe iron deficiency can cause are a “risk of low birth weight, premature birth, and low levels of iron.” They also go on to say that “getting too little iron might also harm her infant’s brain development.” There is only one way to avoid a deficiency which can lead to anemia. This is to ensure that you are getting the recommended 27 mg of iron each day.
As previously mentioned, the only way to prevent and treat a deficiency is to get the recommended 27 mg of iron through diet. The main source for iron intake should be your diet. Different foods will either contain heme iron, or non-heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed more efficiently in the body and is found in foods such as:
- Lean meats
On the other hand, nonheme iron is found in plant-based food and cannot be easily digested. Because of this, it is recommended that people who eat non-heme iron foods also eat something with vitamin C to help absorb the iron. You can find nonheme iron in:
- Dried fruits like raisins & apricots
- Dark green leafy vegetables
- Iron-fortified cereals, bread, & pasta
You can get iron from supplements as well. Your doctor may recommend that you start one and even recommend a specific one for you. Here at Prenatal Liquid Vitamin, we have a prenatal vitamin that contains iron to help you get the nutrient you need.
One thing that is crucial is to make sure you are not getting too much iron as an excess can be harmful to you and your child. The National Institutes of Health gives the upper limit of iron for adults is 45 mg daily. They do go on to say that your doctor may prescribe more than that if you have a severe deficiency.
When it comes to how iron affects pregnancy it is important to avoid a deficiency as it can lead to serious health complications for you and your baby. Be sure to check out one of our previous articles to learn about How The B-Vitamins Affect Pregnancy.