During pregnancy, your requirements of iron increase significantly due to your increased blood volume and to help your baby’s blood system develop. Your baby will draw on your iron stores so they have enough to last them through their first 5 to 6 months of life.
Iron deficiency and anaemia
The routine blood tests you have during pregnancy will identify if you are low on iron. If you are deficient in iron a condition called anaemia can develop.
Common symptoms include:
- Poor concentration
- An increased risk of developing infections.
However, it’s important to note that having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean you are anaemic and they could be from other causes.
Below is a list of iron-rich foods to help you boost your intake of iron during pregnancy.
- Red meat
- Wholemeal bread
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Legumes, such as kidney beans and chickpeas
- Egg yolk
- Nuts and seeds (such as pumpkin seeds)
- Dried apricots.
Other tips for keeping your iron levels up
- Eating iron-rich foods along with foods high in vitamin C helps your body absorb more iron. Good sources of vitamin C include broccoli, capsicum, tomatoes and oranges
- Tea can make it difficult for your body to absorb iron, so avoid drinking it during mealtimes
- Although liver is a good source of iron it’s not recommended during pregnancy as it contains high levels of vitamin A which can cause your baby to have birth defects
- Iron from meat and poultry is absorbed more easily than from fruit and vegetables.
If necessary, your doctor will prescribe iron supplements. These can sometimes cause constipation; if so try including more fibre in your diet. Good sources of fibre include fruits, vegetables and wholegrain cereals.