Why do I need more Iron during pregnancy?
Iron is a mineral that makes up an important part of haemoglobin, the substance in blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. Iron also carries oxygen in muscles, helping them function properly. Iron helps increase your resistance to stress and disease.
The body absorbs iron more efficiently during pregnancy; therefore, it is important to consume more iron while you are pregnant to ensure that you and your baby are getting enough oxygen. Iron will also help you avoid symptoms of tiredness, weakness, irritability, and depression.
Following a balanced diet and including foods high in iron can help ensure that you are consuming enough iron throughout your pregnancy. In addition, the following guidelines will help:
· The Recommended Dietary Allowance for iron is 27 mg per day for pregnant women and 15 mg for breastfeeding women.
· Eating at least three servings of iron-rich foods a day will help ensure that you are getting 30 mg of iron in your daily diet. Always remember iron intake is not equal to iron absorption. Absorption of iron into the body is greatest with meat sources of iron such as liver.
Good sources of iron:
· Meat and Seafood: Lean chicken, egg yolk, fish, mutton liver,pork, sardines
· Vegetables: Black-eyed peas, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, lima beans, sweet potatoes, and spinach.
· Legumes: Dry beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans.
· Fruits: All berries, dried fruits including prunes, raisins and apricots, dates, grapes, oranges, plums, prune juice, and watermelon.
· Breads and Cereals: Oats, rice bran and enriched or fortified breads and cereals.
· Other Foods: Peanuts pumpkin or squash seeds.
The Institute of medicine (IOM) recommends that all pregnant women following a balanced diet take an iron supplement providing 27 mg of iron during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy (that's the amount in most prenatal vitamins). Your doctor may increase this dose if you become anaemic. Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which the size and number of red blood cells are reduced. This condition may result from inadequate intake of iron or from blood loss.
Facts about iron:
· Vitamin C helps your body use iron. It is important to include sources of vitamin C along with foods containing iron and iron supplements.
· Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of iron. Try to consume iron supplements and foods high in iron at least one to three hours before or after drinking or eating foods containing caffeine.
· Iron is lost in cooking some foods. To retain iron, cook foods in a minimal amount of water and for the shortest possible time. Also, cooking in cast iron pots can add iron to foods.
· Constipation is a common side effect of taking iron supplements. To help relieve constipation, slowly increase the fiber in your diet by including whole grain breads, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Drinking at least eight glasses of water daily and increasing moderate exercise (as recommended by your doctor) can also help you avoid constipation.
Your baby does a good job of taking care of his iron needs while he is in your womb. He will get his share of what's available before you do. That said, if you're severely anemic, it may compromise your baby's iron stores at birth, raising his risk for anemia later in infancy and possibly hurting his growth and cognitive development.