How to Get More Iron in Your Diet During Pregnancy

Medical review by Terri Forehand RN
Young woman talking with her doctor

Most women know that pregnancy is certain to bring changes in a woman's body and lifestyle. To accommodate those changes, you will likely purchase new clothing, baby furniture, and accessories, but diet changes are also necessary. Consuming a well balanced diet helps ensure your baby grows and develops as he should. Find out how to get more iron in your diet during pregnancy while consuming other essential nutrients to give your baby the best start possible.

Importance of Iron During Pregnancy

A pregnant woman needs iron even before she conceives to help support her immune system and make hemoglobin, which carries oxygen to the cells. Without adequate iron in the body, your stores become depleted and you risk developing anemia and other health issues. During pregnancy, it is even more crucial to get iron in your diet for a number of reasons:

  • Your body produces nearly 50 percent more blood than usual during pregnancy.
  • Iron-deficiency anemia can lead to pre-term delivery as well as low birth weight and infant mortality.
  • A growing baby and placenta require additional iron.
  • Iron helps reduce bothersome symptoms in pregnancy, such as fatigue, irritability, and depression.

Recommended Intake of Iron During Pregnancy

The Cleveland Clinic recommends that pregnant women get about 30 mg of iron daily from their diet or from prenatal vitamins. Women who may become pregnant should be sure they are consuming the recommended intake for non-pregnant women: 18 mg. By getting sufficient amounts of iron before you become pregnant, you reduce your chances of becoming deficient in pregnancy.

How to Get More Iron in Your Diet During Pregnancy

The best sources of iron include the following:

  • Dried beans
  • Eggs
  • Iron-fortified cereals
  • Beef
  • Poultry
  • Salmon

Fish and Liver as Sources of Iron

Liver and tuna are also good sources of iron, although they pose some health risks to pregnant women. Mercury in some types of tuna can be toxic and liver contains unsafe amounts of vitamin A. Consult your doctor about ways to incorporate these foods into your diet safely.

Vegetable Sources

Additional sources of Iron include the following:

  • Nuts and seeds
  • Vegetables, including spinach, broccoli, asparagus, and kale
  • Whole grains

Although the iron in these foods does not absorb as well as iron from meats, they still provide some iron and are otherwise nutritious foods.

Iron Supplements

Most doctors recommend that pregnant women and those planning a pregnancy begin taking prenatal vitamins to fill in nutritional gaps. If you're already taking a prenatal vitamin and eating iron-rich foods, it's likely that your are getting enough iron in your diet, especially because most prenatal supplements contain iron. There is no need then for you to use a separate iron supplement, unless your doctor instructs you to do so. Low iron can cause medical problems, but high iron levels can be dangerous too. In fact, if you take in too much iron, you risk developing problems such as gestational diabetes and preeclampsia, or pregnancy-induced hypertension.

Iron as a Healthy Habit

Knowing how to get more iron in your diet during pregnancy is just one step to optimal health for you and baby. Sleeping well, getting adequate exercise, and eating an array of foods are other important habits.

How to Get More Iron in Your Diet During Pregnancy