Iron is a crucial mineral needed during pregnancy which aids the healthy growth and development of your baby.
When pregnant, your body uses iron to make extra blood for both you and your baby.
The amount of blood in your body when you're expecting will increase by up to 50%. This increase is needed to make blood which carries oxygen and other cells in your bloodstream from your lungs to the rest of your body, including your baby's.
Iron in pregnancy can also prevent pregnancy-induced anaemia, a condition where you don't have enough red blood cells or your red blood cells don't contain enough haemoglobin.
When should a pregnant woman start taking iron?
The required dose of iron required during pregnancy can be found in most over the counter prenatal vitamins. These vitamins are usually recommended as soon as you discover you are expecting as they include other essential nutrients required in aiding the healthy growth of your baby, including folic acid.
However, around three months into your pregnancy at your booking visit your midwife or consultant will request routine bloods to check your haemoglobin levels, to check your blood group and to check your rubella and chickenpox immunity. The same test will also check for sexually transmitted infections.
Can low iron during pregnancy affect the baby?
Low iron, also known as anaemia, can increase the risk of premature birth, having a low birth and in some cases, postnatal depression.
For you, low iron can cause excessive tiredness, dizziness, shortness of breath, weakness, chest pain, pale skin and headaches may also occur.
What iron supplement should I use?
While there are many different brands of iron supplements available over the counter, some of them can have side effects including nausea, heartburn and constipation. For this reason, we recommend you ask your pharmacist, midwife, GP or consultant which one is right for you.
Along with iron supplements, you should also introduce a wide variety of leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale and broccoli into your diet as well as lean beef, chicken, beans, lentils and dried fruit.
What about after birth?
If you have developed an iron deficiency during birth, your stats will most likely return to normal after you give birth but if your levels are still low your doctor may advise you to continue taking iron to help rebuild your stores so you will have the energy to care for your baby.
Is there anything else I need to know?
Our bodies find some forms of minerals easier to absorb than others and when it comes to consuming iron, it is recommended to up your Vitamin C intake. In recent years, Vitamin C has been proven to enhance iron absorption so maybe have a glass of orange juice along with your leafy green infused dinner.