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Iron Supplementation In Pregnancy – Everything You Need To Know

Have you been feeling nauseous, constipated or so tired you can barely get through the day? My guess is if you are here reading this article it is because you are not feeling good. You are looking for answers and you think it might have something to do with having too much or too little iron.

Well, I have good news and bad news. .

The bad news is that I can’t promise to solve all your pregnancy problems with an Iron supplement. (Wish I could!)

The good news is that I can help you understand how iron, either too much or too little, can affect how you feel in pregnancy. And you might be able to put that information to use and solve problems like feeling nauseous, tired, weak, or foggy.

It’s true, feeling tired, weak, or nauseous can be more than just normal pregnancy symptoms. Sometimes these problems can go away with the right balance of iron.

I can help you ask the right questions and gain a little knowledge so that you can go into your appointments with your doctor and midwife more informed and with better questions to investigate.

Pregnancy does come with challenges. It certainly gives you new demands on your body, mind, and self-care routines.

But, your body should not feel horrible, and you should not be exhausted through it all. If you are feeling that way, I congratulate you for looking for answers and I hope you find what you need here.

Why Do You Need Iron In Pregnancy?

Iron deficiency during pregnancy is one of the most common nutritional deficiencies in the world. According to the World Health Organization, anemia caused by iron deficiency is a problem for 17% of women in developed countries and 60% of women in developing countries.

During pregnancy, your body is hard at work. You are building 60 million cells every second. Your blood volume, which is heavily dependent on iron, doubles.

You are also creating two extra pounds of uterine muscle, the nerves, bones, organs, muscles, glands, and skin of your baby. In addition, you will be replacing many kidney and liver cells used to process the waste of both you and your baby.

This means, even when you are resting, your body is at work. When you lack the proper nutrients your body needs, you will feel it.

It is possible that adding an iron supplement in your pregnancy may help. Or, depending on your specific situation it may be that you need to take your supplement at a different time or even switch to a prenatal vitamin that does not have iron.

This is what you need to know to get the right amount of iron supplementation in your pregnancy!

What Are The Risks Of Too Little Iron During Pregnancy?

woman discussing iron supplementation in pregnancy with her midwife at home check-in

Not having enough iron in your body during pregnancy might make you feel tired, weak or have anemia.

Your body uses iron to make red blood cells. These cells carry oxygen to your tissues and your baby. While severe iron deficiency can be very damaging to both mother and baby, most women in the developed world will only notice the subtle effects of anemia because they are unlikely to be dangerously deficient in iron.

However, it is important to know that severe iron deficiency in pregnancy can increase your risks for:

  • preeclampsia
  • premature birth
  • inability to recover well after birth
  • delayed growth for your baby
  • cognitive delays for your baby

Though, keep in mind, these are for severe iron deficiencies. Luckily, most women in developed nations are not at risk for severe iron deficiencies.

More subtle signs of iron deficiencies are:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellowish skin
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Chest pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Headache

Keep in mind, these are very common and normal parts of pregnancy. However, if you have concerns with any of these, it is wise that you are looking for answers and hopefully working with your care provider.

What Is The Risk Of Too Much Iron In Pregnancy?

There are many people who believe that since iron deficiency is so common, all women should take large amounts of iron supplementation during pregnancy. But, just like too little iron in pregnancy can cause damage, too much iron in pregnancy can be damaging as well.

Sometimes to the solution is not taking more iron supplements in pregnancy, but looking at why your body isn’t absorbing or using the iron you are consuming. For example, since Iron and calcium compete for some of the same resources, taking antiacids for heartburn can sometimes cause Iron deficiencies. This is something you should discuss with your doctor.

It is also possible for iron in prental vitamins to make a women feel constipated, naseuos or unwell. This is especially true if the type of iron in her supplement is not easily absorbed by the body.

  • Gestational diabetes
  • Organ damage
  • Heart disease
  • Oxidative stress
  • Damage to the gut biome

Too much iron can cause some severe problems in the long run just as too little iron can. These are:

Another important thing to know about too much iron is that too much iron consumed at one time can become toxic and result in iron poisoning. This can be very dangerous.

This is why many prenatal vitamins do not have iron in them. This is especially true for gummy prenatal vitamins that could accidentally be consumed by a child who thinks they are sneaking a delicious candy.

How Much Iron Is Safe In Pregnancy?

Studies show that women who have anemia during pregnancy should be taking an iron supplement. And that taking 30 mg of iron per day as a precautionary measure doesn’t cause any noticeable health problems for pregnant mothers or for their children.

How To Tell If You Need Iron Supplementation In Pregnancy?

Luckily, you can find out what your blood level of iron is during pregnancy by having your doctor order a simple blood test. This will give you clarity on if you have enough iron in your body or not.

From there, your care provider and you can look at if you are getting enough iron in your diet if your body is absorbing the iron you are consuming, and help you get an exact dosage for an iron supplement if you are unsure.

Depending on your symptoms, you may need to try a few things to get the right level for you.

Prenatal Vitamins And Iron

Many women assume that their prenatal vitamin has iron. I know I did. I was surprised when my midwife pointed out that the vitamins I was taking did not have Iron in them. This is one of the main reasons that iron is under supplemented during pregnancy. Simply because women don’t know that they may or may not be getting this in their prenatal.

Other women who are getting plenty of iron through their diet or herbal teas prefer to take a prenatal vitamin without iron. They may do this especially if the iron in their supplement is making them feel constipated or naseous.

Iron can also compete with the absorption of other nutrients, especially calcium. So if you find you have plenty of iron, but not enough of something such as calcium, taking your iron separately from your multivitamin may be beneficial to you.

To find out if your prenatal vitamin has iron, you need to look at the label to find out.

Best Prenatal Vitamins That Contains Iron:

Because prenatal vitamins have so many different levels of iron, I wanted to share with you my favorite vitamins that have low amounts of iron, the highest amount of iron recommended for pregnancy, and no iron. This way you can try out which works for you and helps you feel the best during your pregnancy.

Best Prenatal Vitamin With Highest Recommended Amount of Iron

pregnant woman holding chewable iron supplements for pregnancy

Eu Natural prenatal vitamins have absorbable forms of iron and folate. They are pills, with the highest amount of recommended iron for pregnancy. If you need to replace a gummy vitamin with a prenatal vitamin that does contain iron, these are a great choice.

Eu Natural (27 milligrams iron)

Best Prenatal Vitamin With Low Dose Iron

iron in pregnancy woman drinking orange juice for increased absorption of iron

Root’d prenatal vitamins area vitamin in a sparkling drink form. Do you like yummy drinks like crystal light? Now you can have something just as taty, but that has all of your recommended daily prental vtimin in it. These are super natural, again has absorbably forms of folate and iron. They are a great prental vitamin if you need a lows dose iron supplementation in pregnanacy .

Root’d (9 milligrams iron)

Best Prenatal Vitamin Without Iron

pregnant woman in bed resting because she needs iron supplementation in pregnancy for low energy

Is too much iron in your diet your problem? If so Needed’s prenatal could be the perfect fit for you. Their complete prenatal plan helps you meet your baby’s micronutrient, microbiome, and protein needs. It’s trusted by health practitioners and mamas alike because it really works.

Plus, you can get 20% off when you use code SBB20.

The Best Iron Supplement For Pregnancy

If you do need to take a separate Iron Supplement for pregnancy, I highly recommend the formula created by This Is Needed. Their Iron is bound to Glycine for better absorption and digestive comfort. Plus, Iron is 13.5mg per capsule, so you can easily tailor your daily dosage to meet your needs.

Plus you get 20% off when you use code SBB20.

Natural Iron Supplementation In Pregnancy

Some women prefer to look to nature for supplementation in pregnancy rather than artificial or manufactured supplements. Getting enough iron in pregnancy is a large reason women drink specific herbal teas durng pregnancy. The following teas are high in iron and popular for pregnancy:

  • Red Raspberry Leaf
  • Nettle
  • Dandelion

Herbal teas such as these also provide other important minerals and vitamins such as vitamins A, C, and K. Of course, discuss this with your doctor or midwife if you are taking this route. I also recommend the book Wise Woman Herbal For The Childbearing Year if you are using herbal supplements such as teas or infusions.

Foods With Iron For Pregnancy

pregnant mom preparing food with iron for pregnancy with her older child on the table

One of the things I teach in the nutrition section of my birth course is that many complications such as preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes can often be prevented by eating the right foods during pregnancy.

However, for now, I want to share with you foods that can help you increase your iron if you think that is the root of the problems you are facing.

  • Red meat, pork and poultry.
  • Seafood.
  • Beans.
  • Dark green leafy vegetables, such as spinach.
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots.
  • Iron-fortified cereals, breads and pastas.
  • Peas.

Another great resource for understanding how your diet affects your pregnancy and the health of yourself and your growing baby, check out the book Real Food For Pregnancy.

It’s true, looking for solutions in nutrition may be more challenging than chewing an iron supplement in pregnancy. However, it can be more rewarding and give you more permanent healing, often without the side effects that happen when you never address the underlying cause of a nutritional imbalance.

Iron Supplementation In Pregnancy Conclusion

If you are feeling tired, weak constipated, naseous or overall exaughsted during your pregnancy, it is a good idea to take a look at how much iron you are getting. The recommended dose suggested as safe for all pregnant women is 30 milligrams of iron a day. To make sure you are getting the right amount of iron consider:

  • How much iron you are getting in your supplements
  • How much iron you are getting in teas and food
  • If your body is able to absorb and use the iron you are consuming

Depending on the severity of your symptoms and your knowledge of your own body and needs, you may feel comfortable troubleshooting on your own. However, I always recommend keeping your midwife or doctor up to date with what you are feeling because they have worked with many women and can help you through the troubleshooting process.

None of this information is made to take the place of their advice or suggestions.

I hope you find the pregnancy glow and a certain amount of comfort and ease that comes when you are feeling amazing in your pregnancy!

Much love,

Suzzie Vehrs