“Iron deficiency, and its resultant anaemia, is the most common nutrient deficiency, especially during pregnancy, affecting 40 to 50 per cent of women and their infants.”–Rebecca Schmidt, Professor, Department of Public Health Sciences at UC Davis
Due to the high demand of blood volume to provide nutrients for the baby, a pregnant woman will have a higher risk of anemia. Anemia can be a mild condition (headache, dizziness or weakness) which can be easily treated if caught early, or it can become dangerous (heart failure) if it goes untreated.
The anemia risks to the baby are:
- Pre-mature baby
- Low birth weight baby
- A baby with anaemia
- A child with delay development
As your body needs more blood during pregnancy, you are more likely to become anaemic during this time period.
As mentioned, if iron is generally important for our body, it is twice as important during pregnancy as iron is used to produce extra blood for the baby. Women need 50% more blood during pregnancy and more iron intake is necessary to produce the increased need for hemoglobin.
Iron’s normal function of transporting oxygen is also expanded as iron helps in the transportation of oxygen from the mother’s lungs to the baby during pregnancy.
The demand of iron goes up as haemoglobin production for a pregnant woman increases to meet the need for an increase in blood volume and oxygen supply for the baby. It is advisable that a pregnant woman should take 27 mg of iron daily.
But you also do not want your blood level of iron to rise to too high a level.
Some women are at a risk for developing gestational diabetes and too much iron in the blood can contribute to its development. High iron in the blood can also cause oxidative stress, which can lead to preeclampsia, infertility, heart disease, and high blood pressure.
If you are going to take your iron in supplement form, consult your doctor before you start.
Food Sources for Iron
- Red meat
- Eggs and poultry
- Wholegrain and enriched bread and cereals
- Dried beans (cooked or canned), peas and lentils
- Wholegrain Pasta
- Seafood (but shellfish is not recommended for pregnant women)