When you are pregnant, the nutritional requirements of your body increase in order to provide adequate nourishment to the fetus. The body increases its blood volume, and to make extra blood for you and your baby, the body requires iron. So, during pregnancy, you need twice the amount of iron as you did before you were expecting. Iron is also needed to support the increased maternal red blood cells. Also, your baby needs to build and store enough iron to last the first six months of his or her life.
Getting enough iron can prevent anaemia, which is caused due to iron deficiency. It is a condition wherein the body has few red blood cells, and its effects include the individual feeling tired a lot of the time. Having anaemia can have adverse effects on your baby, as the baby may be born too small and too early, and it also increases the risk of perinatal infant mortality. During pregnancy, you will need at least 27 mg of iron every day to support the body’s requirement. You also need to take in Vitamin C, as it can help your body to absorb the iron it needs.
There are two types of iron – heme iron and non-heme iron. Heme iron is easily absorbed by the body and the dietary sources are chicken, turkey, beef and pork. Non-heme iron should be taken with Vitamin C in the same meal to help better absorb the iron content of the food. It is found in foods such as spinach, beans and tofu.
When you are pregnant, getting enough iron from food can be difficult. If you are a vegetarian or a vegan, then it gets more difficult for you. It is recommended to eat iron-rich foods along with foods like tomatoes and oranges, which are rich in Vitamin C. Certain food and drinks prevent the body from absorbing iron. You may want to avoid consuming them while you are on your iron-rich diet. These include milk, tea, coffee, dairy products and whole grains. Try to have a glass of orange juice with your food instead of coffee or tea. Take your multivitamin at least an hour before or after having tea, coffee, calcium supplements and other dairy products.
If your doctor finds that your iron level is low, you may have to take extra iron supplements, which ensure that you are getting enough iron. Your prenatal vitamin should be providing you with enough iron since most of the types contain the recommended amount of iron. However, a doctor’s advice must be taken and followed strictly if you are taking iron supplements. They may sometimes cause constipation, nausea, vomiting or diarrhoea. It may take a few days for your body to adjust to the increased amount of iron. Meanwhile, drink plenty of water and have fiber-rich food, as the help relieve constipation. However, if the side-effects persist, consult with your doctor immediately.