Pregnant women have very distinct nutritional needs. During pregnancy, your body actually needs twice the amount of iron as it did before you were expecting, primarily because your body uses the iron to supply blood for your unborn child.
While iron requirements for expectant women are well publicized, statistics show about 50% of pregnant women are lacking enough of this important mineral. When you are eating for two, consuming iron-rich foods and taking doctor-recommended supplements can ensure you get the iron you need during the important developmental stages of your pregnancy.
In addition to helping your body supply blood to your baby, iron also helps move oxygen from your lungs to your body and your baby’s growing body. Perhaps the most common benefit of iron supplementation during pregnancy is minimizing the risk of anemia. Anemia symptoms include:
- General fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- tongue swelling or soreness
- Cold hands and feet
- Fast or irregular heartbeat
- Brittle nails
When pregnant, anemia may result in a low birth weight or premature baby, another reason getting enough iron is essential during the full term of your pregnancy. Experts suggest taking a low dose iron supplement as early as your first prenatal visit. Recommended dosage is about 30 mg per day. Post pregnancy and during the months when you are breast feeding, you will require at least 9 mg of iron daily.
While it is common to assume a healthy diet is adequate to supply the iron needed during pregnancy, getting enough of this vital mineral from food alone can be challenging. This is especially true for those who follow vegetarian or vegan diets, since their food choices omit iron-rich meats and poultry. All the more reason to look for supplements containing iron and eliminate the risk of becoming anemic.
Iron supplements get a bad reputation because taken alone, they can cause nausea, vomiting or constipation, especially as your body adjusts to the extra iron. But, most prenatal supplements containing iron are designed to be easy on the stomach and digestive system. Asking your OB/GYN for a supplement containing iron is a smart decision for a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby.