Discovering that you are pregnant is a rollercoaster of excitement, and worry. All of a sudden your mind races through the last few weeks – I had a glass of wine, will that damage the baby? What you put into your body suddenly has greater significance –and for good reason.
Whilst you cut out the potentially harmful things from your diet, you mustn’t forget to add in the things you need more of. You can’t quite start eating for two, but you will need to increase your intake of certain nutrients, like iron, to keep you and your baby healthy.
Iron for a healthy pregnancy
Growing a baby is a unique and demanding experience. Although your body is designed to do it, you need to make sure you have all the nutrients required for the job.
Iron is important, not only to keep your body working well, but for all the changes that start as soon as you are pregnant.
Iron for a healthy baby
Iron is needed for all organs to work properly, but especially when they are growing.1 Your baby needs iron from you to develop in the womb, but also to store for growth after they are born. Learn more about iron and your baby’s development.
How will I know if I’m iron deficient?
Signs that you may have iron deficiency include feeling listless or washed out, looking pale or feeling breathless. You can check for other signs of iron deficiency using our Symptom Browser.
Cravings are often not taken seriously.–For example, dashing out for ice-cream in the middle of the night or a never-ending desire for pickled onions. But having iron deficiency anaemia can also cause you to crave strange things, including ice, or even dirt. If you feel your cravings are becoming unusual, or you think you have any of the other signs of iron deficiency such as faintness or feeling fatigued,2 you should talk to your doctor who will be able to find out the most likely cause of your symptoms.
I may have iron deficiency, what can I do?
Although your doctor or midwife will check for signs of iron deficiency anaemia (which is when you don’t have enough iron to make all the red blood cells you need) you may still have iron deficiency, without anaemia. This can still have an impact on your pregnancy,3 so it is important that you know the signs of iron deficiency and how to increase the amount of iron you are getting from your diet.
If you are worried that you may have iron deficiency, don’t be afraid to schedule an extra visit to see your doctor. If necessary, they will check your iron levels and give you advice.
If you are experiencing fatigue you may want to use our Fatigue Survey to assess your level of tiredness, before you visit your doctor. You can use the results of the Survey to help explain to your doctor how fatigue is affecting your life.
Remember that the amount of iron you need changes with each trimester so make sure your physician keeps an eye on it throughout your pregnancy.
- 1. Rao R, Georgieff MK. Iron in fetal and neonatal nutrition. Semin Fetal Neonatal Med. 2007;12(1):54-63. doi:10.1016/j.siny.2006.10.007.
- 2. Wood MM, Elwood PC. Symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia: A community survey. Br J Prev Soc Med. 1966;20:117-121.
- 3. World Health Organization. Iron deficiency anaemia. Assessment, prevention and control: A guide for programme managers.; 2001.