Iron: What is it and why is it so important?
Iron is an important mineral that your body uses to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the substance in red blood cells that is responsible for transporting oxygen through your body. When you get pregnant your blood supply increases causing you to need about twice the amount of iron you would need when not pregnant.
About 20% of women will develop an iron deficiency known as anemia. The risks of anemia can be scary; low birth-weight and premature birth but anemia is usually an easy fix.
How much is enough?
Most care providers will check your iron levels when the do the initial blood draw at the beginning of your pregnancy. They will continue to monitor it throughout your pregnancy; retesting if they suspect a problem. Most pregnant women need a minimum of 27mg of iron a day in pregnancy.
How do I know if I am not getting enough?
It can be hard to tell if you have anemia just from your symptoms, blood tests are the most accurate way. Many of the symptoms seem like normal pregnancy symptoms;
- Fatigue and loss of energy
- Rapid heart beat, particularly with exercis
- Pale skin
- Leg Cramps
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty concentrati
Always tell your care provider if you notice symptoms of anemia, this will help them determine if further testing is needed.
What can I do to keep my levels up?
Diet is the best way to keep your iron levels up. You could try cooking in an iron skillet (the iron leaches into your food!) or eating a diet rich in iron.
- clams, mollusks, mussels, oysters
- canned sardines
- pumpkin, sesame, squash seeds
- broccoli, spinach, kale
- lima beans, kidney beans, chickpeas
- brown or enriched rice
- dark chocolate
If your iron levels are extremely low your provider may suggest a supplement to help keep your levels where they need to be.
It is important to keep eating high iron foods into your postpartum period. Your body is still healing and will need the nutrients as well as iron for at least 6 weeks postpartum.
This is one of my favorite recipes. It is not only high in iron, but protein as well. It is a great snack to indulge while still taking care of your nutritional needs!
1 can – Black beans
Mix the can of black beans in a blender (canning liquid and all) until smooth. Mix in the brownie mix and bake as usual! Since you are omitting the eggs and oil, the brownies become low fat. They will be the most moist and delicious brownies you have ever enjoyed!
Don’t forget; Talk to your provider if you suspect low iron/anemia and always take their recommendation.