Like all nutrients, iron plays a vital role during pregnancy. A baby’s growth requires iron and it is an important nutrient for normal cognitive (brain) development. As pregnancy progresses, your blood volume will gradually increase and so will your iron need. According to the British Committee for Standards in Haematology (BCSH), the physiological iron requirements of pregnant women are three times higher compared to those who are menstruating. However as pregnant women stop menstruating there is also a reduction in iron loss. A healthy balanced diet, with iron-rich foods should provide most of the iron you need during pregnancy and also allow your baby to build its iron stores which should last the first six months of his or her life. Your doctor will monitor your iron levels during pregnancy and in many some cases where diet alone is insufficient an iron supplement may be recommended*.
How much iron do pregnant women need?
Women from ages 19 to 50 need to intake approximately 15 mg of iron per day, but for a pregnant woman this can increase to 27mg1.
With higher demand for iron during pregnancy, pregnant women need to give more attention to their daily iron intake. The absorption of iron is a complex process, and a large percentage of the iron in food sources is actually excreted. During pregnancy, your levels may be screened to ensure your body has enough for you and your developing baby. If you are concerned about your iron intake or feel like you may be suffering from the symptoms of low iron, you should speak to your doctor or healthcare professional. If you’re found to be iron deficient, your doctor or midwife may advise that you maintain your levels by taking a supplement as well as eating iron-rich foods*.
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1. SACN Iron & Health report, published 25 February 2011 from Public Health England