In medical terms, iron is one of the essential elements that the human body needs. This implies that besides pregnancy you still need it for normal body functions. Iron is an important ingredient in hemoglobin – the protein in red blood cells that transfers oxygen to other parts of the body. It is also important in making myglobin, collagen and many enzymes, which are all important for overall body functions. Such aspects are quite beneficial to a plus-size mom to be.
Iron Needs During Pregnancy
During pregnancy there’s an increased need for iron. You should understand that the quantity of blood in your body increases by almost fifty percent when you are pregnant. This means that you need more iron to make more hemoglobin, which is important for you and your unborn baby throughout your pregnancy. Extra iron during pregnancy is essential for your growing baby and the placenta. You need this element especially during second and third trimesters of your pregnancy.
In many cases, pregnant women need more iron because they start pregnancy without enough reserves of the mineral. Due to increased demand for iron, they need more of it to avoid a deficiency. Lack of iron during pregnancy can lead to premature delivery, low birth weight, infant mortality or a combination of such complications.
How Much Iron Do You Need?
Iron intake should be restricted to specific amounts. Abusive use of iron is disastrous and can lead to long-term health problems. Using 27mg of iron per day is sufficient for a pregnant woman. For women who are not pregnant, 18mg of iron per day is recommended.
Food Sources of Iron
Iron is mainly obtained from food, especially sources that are rich in protein. Such foods include red meat, poultry and fish. Other sources of iron include legumes, vegetables and cereals. Take note that liver provides the highest amount of iron, but since it contains unsafe amounts of vitamin A, it should be avoided during pregnancy.
Common Sources of Iron
There are only two common sources of iron, namely non-heme iron and heme-iron.
Non-heme iron is present in plants as well as animal protein such as meat, poultry and fish. Heme iron is present only in animal protein and the body absorbs it more easily than the plant-based protein. Therefore, common sources of heme iron include meat, fish and poultry, while non-heme iron sources are mainly fortified plant products such as oatmeal, soybeans, lentils, pumpkin seeds among others.
Should I Take An Iron Supplement?
During pregnancy, you may not get sufficient supplies of iron from your diet, hence you may need a supplement. On your first appointment with your doctor, you will be advised to take prenatal vitamin supplement with 30 mg of iron. This amount is sufficient during your pregnancy.
Always avoid taking iron supplements, unless advised by your doctor. This is because too much iron can cause your blood levels of iron to rise too high, which is risky for you and your unborn baby. Too much iron during pregnancy is also associated with gestational diabetes, oxidative stress, preeclampsia and miscarriages, among others. To this end, you should only use supplements when advised by a qualified medical practitioner.