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Health & Pregnancy

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Are You Getting Enough Iron?


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 and hemoglobin 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.

On the other hand, certain drinks and foods prevent your body from absorbing iron. These include coffee, tea, milk, whole grains, and dairy products. Try not to eat these foods at the same meal when you're eating foods high in iron. For example, instead of having coffee or tea with your breakfast cereal, have a glass of orange juice.

Do I Need Iron Supplements?

Taking an iron supplement can help ensure you get enough iron every day. In most cases, you will get enough iron in your prenatal vitamin since many types contain the recommended amount of iron. Your doctor will check your iron levels periodically depending on your test results and if you are a vegetarian.) If your iron level is low, you may need to take an extra iron supplement.

What Are the Side Effects of Iron Supplements?

You need at least 27 mg of iron, but try not to get more than 45 mg each day during your pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Be sure to take iron supplements exactly as your doctor recommends.

Iron supplements may cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, or diarrhea. Sometimes your body adjusts to the extra iron on its own in a few days. Drinking plenty of water and eating foods high in fiber may also help with constipation. But if you still have side effects, try taking the supplements with food or in two doses. Or ask your doctor if it's safe to take a stool softener.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Nivin Todd, MD on June 18, 2014
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