Iron is Important During Pregnancy
Many women have low iron levels when they are pregnant. Signs of having low iron are feeling tired, weak, trouble focusing, poor appetite, gets sick easily, and having a pale color under your fingernails. Having too little iron can cause a condition called anemia. When you are pregnant you have more blood in your body. More blood means you need to get more iron from the food you eat. Iron carries oxygen to your body cells, and to your baby’s body. The oxygen helps your cells make energy from the food you eat.
How does iron help the baby?
Iron is important for the baby’s brain development before and after they are born. Getting enough iron during pregnancy is also important to your baby after he or she is born. In the last 3 months of pregnancy your baby is building up an iron store that will last 4 to 6 months after birth. The baby will use the stored iron until he or she is ready to start eating solid foods.
Which foods are good sources of iron?
- Choosing foods that are good sources of iron is important. Foods high in iron include:
- Lean red meats and chicken
- Sardines, anchovies, clams, and tuna
- Beans, peas, and lentils
- Enriched and whole-grain breads and cereals
- Dark-green leafy vegetables
- Dried fruits
Eating fruits and vegetables rich in vitamin C will help your body use more of the iron you eat.
Should I take iron supplements?
If you begin your pregnancy without enough iron in your blood, it is often difficult to eat enough food to get the amount you need. Your doctor may recommend a prenatal supplement or an iron supplement. Iron supplements should only be taken under a doctor’s care.
When taking iron supplements, be sure you drink enough fluid. Aim for about 8 cups a day. Choose beverages that do not contain caffeine. Too much caffeine will keep your body from absorbing the iron. Milk, calcium, antacids, and high fiber foods can also keep your body from absorbing iron. Be sure to wait 2 hours to take the iron supplement after eating these foods.
Tips For Eating Enough Iron
- Read the ingredient list when buying breads and cereals - the first ingredient should be enriched or whole grain.
- Drink orange juice when eating oatmeal.
- Have peanut butter sandwiches on iron-enriched whole-grain bread and orange wedges for dessert.
- Add tomato slices and spinach leaves to meat sandwiches.
- Make a trail mix with peanuts, raisins, and whole-grain cereal. Have it with a glass of 100% fruit juice.
- Add tomato slices and fresh spinach leaves to meat sandwiches.
- Eat stews and soups made with beans, meat, and tomatoes such as chili or minestrone soup.
- Squeeze lemon on a chicken salad