red molecules of iron floating on white background

Iron: making blood that's tough as... iron

Although many don’t even realize it, the element iron is incredibly important in everyday bodily functioning, from producing red blood cells and muscle cells, to ridding the body of carbon dioxide. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends a daily intake of 27 mg/day for pregnant women.

How does iron help during pregnancy?

Iron’s primary (though very much not only) function is to help construct healthy red blood cells in order to successfully distribute oxygen across the body. Once pregnant, your blood volume is going to increase by as much as 50%, meaning you need to really up your iron intake in order to produce a sufficient amount of red blood cells. Baby is also dependent on your nutrients, and your iron, for quite a time, meaning she will need to borrow (not that she’ll be paying it back) your iron to construct her own red blood cells. Iron also helps build myoglobin, the protein that delivers oxygen to the muscles, allowing Baby to grow big and strong. Iron-deficiency during pregnancy is related to low birth weight, premature birth, and heart problems, so the importance of consuming enough cannot be overstated.

What are some good sources of iron?

  • Spinach: Popeye sure had this one down! One cup of cooked spinach has about 6.5 mg of iron, representing a very good chunk of the daily recommended amount
  • Iron-fortified cereal: Cereals like Cheerios, Special K, and Raisin Bran all contain very healthy amounts of iron. Not all cereals are iron-fortified, however, so it’s important to make sure you choose one that is rich in iron
  • Red meat: Red meat, whether steak, beef, or burger is very high in iron content. However, the benefits of the iron in red meat must be weighed against red meat’s not so healthful aspects before deciding on filet mignon as your go-to iron choice during pregnancy
  • Beans: Many beans, including kidney, lima and Navy beans have a very high iron content. Beans are a great source of iron (and protein), particularly for a vegetarian who may have trouble finding their daily suggested amount otherwise

Reviewed by Dr. Jamie Lo
Read more
  • "Increasing Iron in Your Diet During Pregnancy." Cleveland Clinic. Cleveland Clinic, 8/22/2011. Web.
  • American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. "ACOG Practice Bulletin No. 95: anemia in pregnancy." Obstet Gynecol. 112(1):201-7. Web. 7/8/2015.
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