Iron is an essential mineral needed to transport oxygen in your body. It plays an important role in metabolism, immune system, physical growth, cognitive and cellular function, and hormone creation.
During pregnancy, you need extra iron for your growing baby and placenta. Not having enough iron in your body during pregnancy can cause anemia and increase risk for:
- Maternal and infant mortality
- Premature birth
- Low birthweight
- Impaired cognitive and behavioral development
Some signs of iron deficiency include:
- Pica (cravings for ice or non-food items like dirt or paper)
- Feeling tired or lightheaded
- Pale skin
- Getting sick more often
- Brittle nails
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends 27 milligrams of iron per day during pregnancy. To meet this recommendation, take a prenatal multivitamin that has iron and include iron-rich foods in your diet such as:
- Fully cooked seafood
- Beef, pork, lamb
- Organ meats (only once a week)
- Iron-fortified, WIC-approved cereals
- Lentils, beans, peas
- Dark green, leafy vegetables
- Blackstrap molasses
- Pumpkin and squash seeds
- Prune juice, dried fruit
- Tomato paste
Tips to improve iron absorption:
- The iron in animal products is better absorbed than the iron in other foods. Try to combine animal products with other iron-rich foods for better absorption!
- Pair iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C like orange juice, strawberries, tomatoes or bell peppers.
- Cook in cast iron skillets and pans.
- Avoid pairing high-calcium foods like milk, yogurt or cheese with iron-rich foods.
- Avoid drinking tea or coffee with meals.
If your doctor prescribed iron supplements, take them only as instructed and with foods high in vitamin C. Iron supplements can cause constipation in some people. You can consult your health care provider on ways to alleviate constipation. Do not take more than the prescribed amount. Too much iron can cause abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and in severe cases lead to organ failure, coma and convulsions.
For more prenatal nutrition information, click here.
For more information, contact our staff at (619) 515-2428 or fill out the form below.