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Eating Right When Pregnant

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Should I Take an Iron Supplement During Pregnancy?

Talk to your health care provider about an iron supplement. The National Academy of Sciences recommends that all pregnant women following a balanced diet take an iron supplement providing 27 mg of iron during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy (that's the amount in most prenatal vitamins). Your doctor may increase this dose if you become anemic. Iron deficiency anemia is a condition in which the size and number of red blood cells are reduced. This condition may result from inadequate intake of iron or from blood loss.

Other Facts About Iron

  • Vitamin C helps your body use iron. It is important to include sources of vitamin C along with foods containing iron and iron supplements.
  • Caffeine can inhibit the absorption of iron. Try to consume iron supplements and foods high in iron at least one to three hours before or after drinking or eating foods containing caffeine.
  • Iron is lost in cooking some foods. To retain iron, cook foods in a minimal amount of water and for the shortest possible time. Also, cooking in cast iron pots can add iron to foods.
  • Constipation is a common side effect of taking iron supplements. To help relieve constipation, slowly increase the fiber in your diet by including whole grain breads, cereals, fruits, and vegetables. Drinking at least eight cups of fluids daily and increasing moderate exercise (as recommended by your doctor) can also help you avoid constipation.

Food Cravings During Pregnancy

Food cravings during pregnancy are normal. Although there is no widely accepted explanation for food cravings, almost two-thirds of all pregnant women have them. If you develop a sudden urge for a certain food, go ahead and indulge your craving if it provides energy or an essential nutrient. But, if your craving persists and prevents you from getting other essential nutrients in your diet, try to create more of a balance in your daily diet during pregnancy.

During pregnancy, your taste for certain foods may change. You may suddenly dislike foods you were fond of before you became pregnant. In addition, during pregnancy, some women feel strong urges to eat non-food items such as ice, laundry starch, dirt, clay, chalk, ashes, or paint chips. This is called pica, and it may be associated with an iron deficiency such as anemia. Do not give in to these non-food cravings -- they can be harmful to both you and your baby. Tell your health care provider if you have these non-food cravings.

If you have any problems that prevent you from eating balanced meals and gaining weight properly, ask your health care provider for advice. Registered dietitians -- the nutrition experts -- are available to help you maintain good nutrition throughout your pregnancy.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Kecia Gaither, MD, MPH on May 06, 2014
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