Iron During Pregnancy
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Iron deficiency is a fairly common problem for pregnant women. Estimates are that between 25% and 35% of women have an iron deficiency during pregnancy, depending on the study and location. It's worth knowing about as deficiency is associated with lower birth weights and even obesity and high blood pressure in later life for the child. Not to mention that sub-clinical anaemia can leave you with low energy and a low immune function.
Women are more at risk than men even before pregnancy due to regular blood loss from menstruation. So protecting your baby and yourself by making sure your levels are adequate is a smart idea. You may be more at risk if you tend to avoid red meat, suffer from heavy periods or have a history of anaemia.
Eating good quality red meat a few times per week contributes greatly to iron status and can be enough to keep your levels adequate throughout the pregnancy.
If you exhibit low iron symptoms such as picking up any bug that's going around, being tired all the time or tiring easily, ask your doctor to check your levels. A supplement may well be necessary to bring your levels up to the optimal amount. Supplementation is often available on the NHS and it is very cheap if it's not available free. If you are deficient, it's well worth the expense to guarantee your baby's health and also your own.
Often, if a supplement is prescribed, the source of iron is not very easily absorbed and can cause digestive side effects such as feeling sick, bloated, passing smelly or green stools and having constipation.
Iron glycinate is the best form to use. Usually around 100mg per day for the first 20 weeks of pregnancy is adequate.
Don't just jump right in and start supplementing without first consulting your doctor. A rare condition called hemochromatosis causes the body to accumulate too much iron over time. Symptoms can include chronic fatigue, joint pain, high blood sugar levels and diabetes. It is not common but iron supplementation in someone who does not know they have this condition could be detrimental to both mother and baby.
As always, if you are concerned about iron levels talk with your health care provider.