Iron is an important mineral that offers many health benefits but should you take iron supplements during pregnancy? Here’s what you need to know.
Iron is needed for hemoglobin production, which supports the immune system, nourishes skin, and more. Its consumption is also important during pregnancy. If you are low on iron, you may develop anemia or it may lead to low birth weight or premature birth. So, it’s essential not just for your health, but for your baby’s growth and development too. While there are many food sources of iron, some women opt for iron supplements to meet the increased requirements. Are you also relying on iron supplements during pregnancy to meet your nutrient requirements, here’s what you need to know.
Why is iron important during pregnancy?
Iron is crucial for pregnant women because it plays a vital role in the healthy development of the baby and keep the mother healthy, says obstetrician and gynaecologist Dr Swetha M.P.
Here are some reasons –
1. Promotes hemoglobin production
Iron is a key component of hemoglobin, which is a protein found in red blood cells. It helps in carrying oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, including the developing fetus. During pregnancy, the mother’s blood volume increases, and there is a greater oxygen demand, which makes it essential for pregnant women to include iron in their diet.
2. Fetal brain development
Iron is also important for the development of the baby’s brain, the expert tells Health Shots. Sufficient iron intake during pregnancy supports the growth and development of the fetal brain and nervous system.
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3. Reduces preterm birth and low birth weight risk
Iron deficiency may lead to preterm birth and low birth weight. Ensuring an adequate supply of iron helps reduce these risks and contributes to a healthier pregnancy.
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4. Strengthens immunity
This mineral plays a major role in the proper functioning of the immune system. It is crucial during pregnancy to protect both the mother and the developing baby from infections and illnesses.
5. Maintains maternal health
Maintaining adequate iron levels is essential for the overall health and well-being of the pregnant woman. It helps prevent complications such as fatigue, dizziness, and increased susceptibility to infections.
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Is it safe to take iron supplements during pregnancy?
A pregnant woman’s daily requirement is typically 27 mg of iron per day, says the expert. Doctors may recommend iron supplements to meet these requirements if dietary intake is insufficient.
Here are some pros and cons of taking iron supplements during pregnancy:
- Helps in haemoglobin production, ensuring healthy red blood cell function.
- Good for fetal neurodevelopment.
- Iron pills can aid in meeting increased oxygen demand during pregnancy.
- Addresses dietary gaps.
- Iron supplements can cause stomach discomfort and constipation, but can be managed with proper hydration.
- Excessive intake of iron supplements can lead to toxicity, and this in turn can lead to fetal complications.
- There may be mineral absorption interference.
- Taking iron supplements during pregnancy can make morning sickness symptoms worse, especially during the first trimester.
What are the natural sources of iron?
Eating a well-balanced diet rich in iron can be of great help. Here are some food sources of iron –
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Soy products
When you eat leafy green vegetables, have it with lentils or dal for better iron absorption, suggests Dr Swetha. Also, don’t combine iron-rich foods with milk-based foods like palak paneer, coffee or tea. You can even use cast iron pan so that more iron gets absorbed by your body.
If you feel that your body needs more iron, don’t go to a pharmacy and buy iron supplements. Check with your doctor first and see if you should take iron supplements during pregnancy.