Pregnancy healthDietitianNutritionNutritionist

Why do we need iron in pregnancy?

  • Iron is needed for the manufacture of haemoglobin in both maternal and foetal red blood cells.
  • Lack of iron in pregnancy can lead to Iron Deficiency Anaemia (a condition where you don’t have enough red blood cells; these contain a protein called haemoglobin that carries oxygen around your body and to your baby). 
  • Iron deficiency in pregnancy can affect the growth and development of the baby and the mother’s health. 
  • Low iron status in pregnancy is associated with low birthweight and prematurity.
  • Latest NDNS (National Diet and Nutrition Survey) shows 10% of women of child bearing age are anaemic.
  • In an attempt to prevent deficiency, pregnant women are screened for anaemia at their booking appointment, and again at 28 weeks (if a multiple birth then again at 20-24 weeks).

How much do we need?

  • 14.8mg/day (current Dietary Reference Value); this is the same as an adult woman.
  • There’s no additional requirement in pregnancy or lactation (there is an increased need for folic acid and vitamin D in pregnancy and routine supplementation is recommended for this, and by virtue of this women also get more iron as the supplements contain iron). 
  • There is an increased demand for iron in pregnancy, but in theory, this is met through mobilisation of maternal iron stores, savings due to cessation of periods and increased dietary absorption (iron absorption from gastrointestinal tract is increased by as much as 50%).

Does it vary at different times in pregnancy?

There is a higher requirement in the third trimester (the foetus accumulates most of it’s iron during this trimester).

Does it vary from individual to individual? 

You will require more iron if carrying twins/triplets.

You are more likely to have anaemia if you’ve had it before, have a history of heavy periods, are pregnant again after having a baby within the last year, are vegetarian or vegan, or are carrying more than 1 baby.

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