Iron in Pregnancy
Iron is needed to make haemoglobin which is part of the red blood cells that carries oxygen. During pregnancy the demand for iron and other vitamins is increased. The body starts to produce more red blood cells and plasma to supply the foetus. To produce red blood cells the body needs iron, vitamin B12 and folic acid. If you eat a balanced diet you will probably not need an iron supplement. You will be prescibed iron tablets if your blood tests results show they are necessary however iron supplements can inhibit the absorption of other nutrients from your food. They can also cause constipation or diarrhoea. So try to get all the iron you need from your food.
Here's a list of foods rich in iron. Although liver is also rich in iron it should be avoided by pregnant women as it contains a lot of vitamin A which can be harmful to the baby.
- Beef, lamb, dark turkey meat
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Wholemeal bread
- Pulses such as red kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, baked beans
- Leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or spring greens
- Sunflower and sesame seeds
- Dried fruits such as figs or apricots
- Baked potatoes
It's better not to drink tea or coffee at mealtimes or for half an hour afterwards. This is because tea and coffee contain compounds called polyphenols that reduce the amount of iron we can absorb from food.
Vitamin C might help us to absorb iron. So, for example, having a glass of orange juice with a meal, or having vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, green peppers or potatoes (all good sources of vitamin C) we might be able to increase the amount of iron our bodies get from our food.
If you feel you need to take a supplement Holland and Barrett recommend Floradix (there's several varieties) and Hubner - Iron Vital F.
Holland & Barrett