Iron supplements in pregnancy

Brain food

The importance of iron

Iron is an important mineral to include in your pregnancy diet. It supports your baby’s developing brain and helps to maintain a healthy supply of oxygen in the blood. Surprisingly, even though your body uses more iron than usual, your daily requirement for iron rich foods in pregnancy is the same as it was before. Learn how your body naturally compensates for the higher demand, and how to maintain a healthy intake.

Iron helps to support:
Normal cognitive development
Iron helps to support:
Immune system development

Iron – building a healthy brain

Iron is an important nutrient for pregnancy, with essential roles to play in your baby’s development and your own health.

An adequate intake supports your baby’s rapidly developing brain, as well as their growing muscles. Iron is also needed to make haemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carry oxygen around your body and to your baby.

Iron-rich foods in pregnancy

During pregnancy, your body uses more iron than usual. This is partly due to your increased blood supply, with more iron required to create and maintain a greater volume of blood cells. Your baby’s demand for iron also rises as they grow.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for iron during pregnancy is 15mg per day

Added to this, your baby’s body starts accumulating iron stores in the third trimester of pregnancy, ready to support them during their first 6 months of life.

Surprisingly, as long as you had good iron levels before conceiving, your recommended intake is the same as if you weren’t pregnant. This is because without the loss of blood through monthly periods, you retain more of your body’s iron stores. Your body also becomes more efficient at absorbing iron as pregnancy progresses – one of the amazing ways your body naturally adapts to the ever-changing demands of growing a new person.

Lettuce During pregnancy, your body absorbs more iron from your food than usual

Why it’s important to get enough

A lack of iron can lead to iron deficiency anaemia, a condition where the blood doesn’t contain enough red blood cells for your body’s needs. Symptoms include some that are common to pregnancy, such as tiredness, a lack of energy, and breathlessness. It can also bring on the racing sensation of heart palpitations and leave you looking pale and washed out. The immune system can also be affected, leaving you more vulnerable to infection and illness.

Maintaining healthy iron levels during pregnancy means you’re less likely to become anaemic, in turn lowering the possible risks of premature birth, a low birth weight and low iron levels in your baby.

The iron found in animal products is called haem iron, and is more easily absorbed than the non-haem iron provided by plant sources

Iron in your pregnancy diet

Iron is present in a variety of foods. The iron found in animal products is called haem iron, and is more easily absorbed than the non-haem iron provided by plant sources.

Vegetarian diets may provide less haem-iron, so if you eat little or no meat, be sure to let your midwife know.


Iron in pregnancy

Even though your body uses more iron than usual, your daily requirement from food is the same as it was before pregnancy.

Include the following iron sources as part of your balanced pregnancy diet to ensure an adequate intake:

  • Meat, including red meat and poultry
  • Fish
  • Pulses
  • Nuts
  • Wholegrains
  • Dark, leafy vegetables
  • Eggs
  • Dried fruit
  • Fortified breakfast cereals

Interestingly, the cookware you use may affect the iron content of your food. Some research suggests that using cast iron pots and pans can help to increase your iron intake.

A little extra help from vitamin C

Vitamin C helps your body to get the less-easily absorbed non-haem iron. So when eating iron-rich plant-based food, up your intake by having a glass of orange juice or a piece of citrus fruit with it or for dessert.

This is especially relevant if you follow a vegetarian diet, which misses out on the more absorbable haem iron found in meat and fish.

It is also important to note that the tannins in tea and coffee can reduce the absorption of iron. So if you enjoy a hot drink after a meal, try choosing a pregnancy-safe fruit tea instead. Take care to limit your intake of chamomile and peppermint teas as these can contain polyphenolic compounds (such as tannins) which can inhibit iron absorption.

Next steps

Add the following iron rich foods to your shopping list during pregnancy:
  • Beef, lamb, pork and chicken
  • Spinach, kale and broccoli
  • Chickpeas and lentils
  • Pilchards and sardines
  • Apricots, prunes and raisins

Your baby's future health begins here

At Aptaclub, we believe that experience helps to build resilience; and that each new encounter, whether in pregnancy or after birth, can shape your baby’s future development. With our scientific expertise and one-to-one round the clock support, we can help you and your baby embrace tomorrow.

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Get in touch with our Careline experts

Our nutritionists and feeding advisors are always on hand to talk about feeding your baby. So if you have a question, just get in touch

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