Iron is an essential mineral in pregnancy and the recommended daily intake is 27mg. Something I hear a lot is “oh I like to get my nutrients from food” or “my mum/grandma never took supplements during pregnancy….”
Unfortunately, it is almost impossible to get all of our required nutrients from food, especially during pregnancy and the reason for this is two-fold. Due to over-farming our soil simply doesn’t have the same level of nutrients it did back in grandma’s day and during pregnancy our requirements for certain nutrients, especially iron, increases substantially.
Let’s look at this in a bit more detail. The following foods are high in iron. Bearing in mind you need 27mg daily, let’s see what that would look like:
One piece of steak – 4-5mg
One cup of spinach – 0.8mg
One egg – 0.95mg
10 dried peach halves – 5.28mg
One cup of cooked lentils – 6.6mg
One cup of walnuts – 3.1mg
One chicken breast – 1.07mg
One cup of beetroot – 1.24mg
You can see how difficult it is to achieve 27mg every single day can’t you? So you might argue, well what are the consequences if I don’t get all of my recommended daily nutrients during pregnancy? At best you will start to feel tired, subtle changes such as poor immunity, breathlessness and poor concentration occur. At worst, your baby will suffer as nutrients are the building blocks for healthy intellectual development, healthy growth and a robust immune system. In the case of iron, it could actually be dangerous because if you are anaemic and then you have a postpartum haemorrhage, you will need to have a blood transfusion which carries its own risks.
In saying all of this, there is an issue in the first trimester as iron supplementation is known to aggravate the symptoms of morning sickness. The best thing to do, is prepare for pregnancy. Boost your iron levels prior to pregnancy so that you can take a prenatal multivitamin that doesn’t contain iron in the first trimester and recommence in the second trimester when the nausea subsides.
However, as roughly half of all pregnancies are unplanned, you may find yourself in a situation where you are iron deficient in the first trimester and feeling nauseous. In that case I would recommend taking Spatone, an iron rich mineral water which is gentle on the stomach and can be taken once daily if tolerated or a couple of times a week. Studies have shown that taking iron twice a week is just as effective as daily iron supplementation for boosting haemoglobin levels in the first trimester.
As always, it is best to seek the guidance of a naturopath or nutritionist when supplementing during pregnancy.