Becoming a parent is both an exciting and potentially intimidating experience.
You’ve most likely heard that iron, zinc, vitamins and more are essential for a healthy baby.
But, you might not be sure what role they play in maintaining a healthy body throughout your pregnancy journey.
With lots of different opinions flying around, we know it can be overwhelming and confusing to know where to start - but it doesn’t have to be. Kin's Pregnancy Checklist consists of bite-sized checklist items personalised to your pregnancy journey. Approved by fertility specialists and OBYGN approved, you'll feel prepared to tackle each day as it comes and enjoy the process, rather than get lost in it.
To help you make sense of all this information, we’ve taken the time to break down the essential nutrients you need to have a happy, healthy pregnancy.
Let’s start with the importance of iron, a rich mineral that helps to transport oxygen to part of your body.
In this article, we’ll look at the importance of iron for pregnancy, how much you need daily and the top iron-rich foods you can incorporate into your everyday life.
And, when paired with a prenatal supplement, will ensure you’re giving your body and growing baby the best nutrients for a healthy start to life.
Why is iron important for pregnancy?
Iron is a nutrient that occurs naturally in certain foods. Your body doesn’t produce iron, so it needs a healthy dose from your diet.
Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to all body parts, and myoglobin (which carries oxygen to muscles and your body's tissue).
This transportation of oxygen around the body helps with the development and growth of your muscles and maintains the healthy functioning of your organs.
During pregnancy, iron plays a significant role in supplying enough oxygen to your womb to grow a healthy placenta for your baby.
But not only that, iron is essential for the health of your baby’s brain and organs as they’re developing.
What happens if you have low levels of iron during pregnancy?
Iron deficiency is more common during pregnancy.
That's because as your baby begins to grow, your body needs up to 50 per cent more blood to ensure both you and your baby have enough blood throughout the journey.
If there isn’t enough blood supply around the body, it causes anaemia, an iron deficiency condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues. Anaemia (a.ka. iron deficiency) can cause:
- Extreme fatigue
- Pale skin
- Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
- Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
- Cold hands and feet
- Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
- Weak nails
Iron intake is especially vital during the last 10 weeks of your pregnancy as your baby starts to develop their own iron levels, ready for their first six months earthside.
So, you’ll want to ensure you’re eating adequate amounts of iron in preparation for labour.
About one-third of women around the world are iron deficient.
Young people who are menstruating are susceptible to iron deficiency anaemia due to heavy menstrual cycles, and bodily changes during puberty.
These changes mean that young people should be aware of their iron levels before they try for a baby in their later years.
So with iron being top of the list of essential nutrients, how much do you need during pregnancy?
How much iron do pregnant people need?
Your body is unique and will need different levels of nutrients, so it’s important to contact your prenatal physician to know the exact amount of iron you need before increasing your intake.
As a rule of thumb, pregnant people need 27mg of iron each day. You should not eat more than 45mg of iron daily as too much iron can cause organ damage due to increased toxicity.
What role can iron supplements play?
Iron supplements are a great source of iron if you eat a plant-based diet or need to increase your iron intake.
During the early stages of pregnancy, you might decide to use an iron supplement to give your body the extra boost whilst you're going through lots of changes.
Iron supplements come in both tablet and liquid form.
It’s essential to speak to your doctor or GP before taking an iron supplement to ensure you’re getting the proper dosage for your needs.
If you experience constipation or any adverse symptoms whilst taking iron supplements, you can:
- Eat more unprocessed plant foods, like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes
- Drink more water
- Participate in low-impact exercise
- Take your iron supplements every second day
- Switch to a different type of iron supplement (consult your doctor first before swapping).
Kin's daily Iron Support supplement is designed to relieve fatigue from inadequate iron intake and low iron levels in pregnancy.
Iron is an essential mineral for growth, yet 1 in 2 women experience iron deficiency in pregnancy.
Formulated to support you during conception, pregnancy, postpartum or just daily, the Iron Support relieves tiredness, supports a baby's development, sustains healthy iron levels and maintains energy production.
How does your body use iron in food?
Iron from food comes in two forms: heme and non-heme. Heme is found only in animal meats like red meat, poultry, and seafood.
Non-heme iron is found in plant foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes, and leafy greens.
Iron is stored in the body as ferritin and then transported around the body by transferrin (a protein in blood that binds to iron).
Whilst these two words might cause some confusion, knowing the different terms for iron will help you get the best out of your diet.
Your body better absorbs heme iron than non-heme iron, so red meats are favoured over grains and nuts seeds by the body.
Common sources of dietary iron
So, what are the common sources of dietary iron? Well, there is a long list of foods you'll find that contain iron, some with higher amounts than others.
Generally speaking, you'll find iron exists in both animal and plant-based sources.
The common sources of iron are in foods such as:
- Lean beef
- Organ meats (such as liver, kidney, pate)
- Beans and lentils
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Wholegrain and enriched bread
- Dark green leafy vegetables (such as raw spinach)
What foods are high in iron for pregnancy?
Looking for iron-rich foods that offer easy iron absorption for your body? Here is a range of options to consider:
Meat and plant-based alternatives
- Tofu (170g): 4.9mg
- Kangaroo (100g raw): 3.4mg
- Kidney beans (150g): 3.2mg
- Sardines (120g): 2.7mg
- Lean beef (100g raw): 2.1mg
- Eggs (120g): 2mg
Bread and cereal foods
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereal (30g): 3.4mg
- Wheat biscuits (35g): 2.4mg
- Half a cup cooked spinach: 1.6mg
- Half a cup cooked silverbeet: 1.5mg
- Half a cup cooked asparagus: 1mg
- Dried apricots (30g): 0.9mg
- Fruit (150g): 0.4mg
- Cashews (30g): 1.5mg
- Pine nuts (30g): 1.1mg
- Almonds (30g): 1.1mg
What are the best plant-based sources of iron?
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet and worry about not getting enough iron, there are quite a few plant-based foods that are rich in iron.
You can incorporate a wide variety of leafy green vegetables, citrus fruits, cooked lentils and more to ensure you're getting a boost of plant sources in your daily meals.
Here is a list of our top 10 favourite vegan sources of iron:
- Tempeh (per 100g provides 3.6mg)
- Pumpkin seeds (2 tablespoons 3mg)
- Iron-fortified cereals (fortified instant oats provide 7.8mg)
- Baked beans (200g provide 2.8mg)
- Wholewheat pasta (75g provides 2.4mg)
- Quinoa (50g provides 3.9mg)
- Wholemeal bread (2 slices of wholemeal bread provides 1.8mg)
- Tahini (1 tablespoon provides 1.6mg)
- Sunflower seeds (2 tablespoons provides 1mg)
- Sweet potato (300g provides 2.2mg)
Can you consume too much iron?
Yes, you can consume too much iron.
Iron supplements have a higher dosage of iron, which can become toxic to your organs if taken without approval from your doctor or midwife.
You can also eat too much iron; consuming a healthy amount of red meat, vegetables, and fortified foods is important.
Certain iron blockers can prohibit plant iron from being absorbed by the body. These can come from tea, coffee, bran and some medications.
Drinks rich in calcium can block iron absorption in the gut, so it’s vital to limit iron blockers when eating iron-rich foods.
If your body has an iron overload, you can develop the condition known as hemochromatosis, in which your body stores too much iron.
If you notice general weakness, fatigue, irregular heartbeats, or joint or stomach pain, it’s important to consult your doctor as soon as possible.
What you need to know about iron intake during pregnancy
Pregnancy is an amazing experience, a time when you can understand yourself and your body on a deeper level.
Understanding the nutrients your body needs during your pregnancy is essential to growing a healthy and happy baby throughout the nine-month journey (and even into their early stages of life).
Iron is just one of the many essential nutrients needed to main healthy blood and functioning organs and can help reduce the chances of inflammatory diseases.
Give yourself and your baby the healthiest pregnancy experience with Kin's Prenatal Supplement, which provides 12 bioavailable ingredients to help with developmental and overall wellbeing.