Are you taking enough iron
Iron is used by your body to make haemoglobin, a substance in red blood cells that transports oxygen throughout your body. During pregnancy, your body supplies blood and oxygen to your baby, so the demand for iron goes up with the increase in blood supply. (1) If your body lacks sufficient amount of red blood cells which are used to carry oxygen through the body, you will have anemia.
While you may experience mild anemia during pregnancy, severe anemia might put you and your baby at risk of premature delivery and low birth weight. If you're anemic when you give birth, you're more likely to need a transfusion and have other problems if you lose a lot of blood at delivery. Iron intake is most important in the final weeks of pregnancy. It is right at the time that your growing baby is most in the market for new red blood cells.
How much iron do you need
Pregnant women: 27 milligrams (mg) of iron per day
Nonpregnant women: 18 mg
Do you need to take an iron supplement? - YES or a prenatal vitamin that contains iron
Take iron rich food or supplement with Vitamin C source such as orange juice as it is iron's best buddy. It is well known to improve iron absorption.
Too much iron is not good
Aim to get no more than 45 milligrams of iron a day. If you take more than that (either from an extra iron supplement or from your prenatal vitamin), it can cause your blood levels of iron to rise too high, possibly causing problems for you and your baby.
Finally, iron is known to cause constipation so take more fibre and don't worry if your stools look darker when you start taking iron. That's a normal and harmless side effect.
2. T. H. Bothwell, “Iron requirements in pregnancy and strategies to meet them,” American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, vol. 72, pp. 257S–264S, 2000
Dr Nicole Ng (MBBS) is a medical doctor with a passion in women's health and medical research