Are You Getting Enough Iron?
When you're pregnant, you need about twice the amount of iron as you did before you were expecting because your body uses iron to make extra blood for your baby. And yet, about 50% of pregnant women don't get enough of this important mineral. Eating iron-rich foods and taking extra iron as your doctor recommends can help keep your iron level in check.
What Are the Benefits of Iron?
Your body uses iron to make extra blood for you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron also helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body -- and to your baby's.
Getting enough iron can prevent a condition of too few red blood cells that can make you feel tired, called iron deficiency anemia. Having anemia can cause your baby to be born too small or too early.
When Should I Start Taking Iron?
According to the CDC, you should start taking a low-dose iron supplement (30 mg a day) when you have your first prenatal appointment. In most cases, you will get this amount of iron in your prenatal vitamin.
How Much Iron Should I Take?
You'll need at least 27 milligrams (mg) of iron every day during your pregnancy. While you're breastfeeding, get at least 9 mg of iron every day if you're 19 or older. Breastfeeding moms 18 and younger need 10 mg of iron.
What Foods Are High in Iron?
You can find iron in meat, poultry, and plant-based foods as well as in supplements. There are two types of iron in foods.
Heme iron is the type your body aborbs best. You get heme iron in beef, chicken, turkey, and pork.
Nonheme iron is the other type, which you can find in beans, spinach, tofu, and ready-to-eat-cereals that have added iron.
Some iron-rich foods include:
- Beef liver (3 ounces) -- 5.2 mg
- Chicken liver (3 ounces) -- 11 mg
- Iron-fortified instant oatmeal -- 11 mg
- Iron-fortified ready-to-eat cereal -- 18 mg
- Raisins (half a cup) -- 1.6 mg
- Kidney beans (1 cup) -- 5.2 mg
- Lentils (1 cup) -- 6.6 mg
- Lima beans (1 cup) -- 4.5 mg
- Oysters (3 ounces, canned) -- 5.7 mg
- Soybeans (1 cup) -- 8.8 mg
Getting enough iron from food when you're pregnant can be difficult, even if you're carefully trying to add iron to your diet. This is especially true if you're a vegetarian or vegan because you don't eat iron-rich meats or poultry. Be sure to tell your doctor if you are a vegetarian so he or she can watch your iron levels more carefully.
What to Eat -- or Not -- With Iron-Rich Foods
At the same time you eat foods that are high in iron, have them with foods that contain vitamin C, such as tomatoes and oranges. Vitamin C helps your body absorb nonheme iron better when you eat both at the same meal.