First Thing’s First: What is Iron?
Iron is one of the most important ingredients in your diet while pregnant. But in order to fully understand why it is so important for you and your baby, first we must understand what is iron and what does it actually do in our body.
Iron is a mineral that can be found in every cell of the human body. It has 3 main important jobs:
- Iron is crucial for the process of oxygen transportation to the cells of our body. This is because iron is a key element in the process of hemoglobin production – the element in our red blood cells that actually carries the oxygen around.
- The strength and effectively of the immune system depends on the amount of iron in the body – whenever iron levels are low the immune system weakens, and we are more likely to get sick.
- Iron takes part in the process of transforming food into energy and allowing the body to properly use this energy. In other words, whenever our iron levels are low we might feel weary and low in energy, because our body couldn’t properly transform the food we had into energy.
In addition to all that, iron takes part in the process of producing collagen (a protein in our muscles and connective tissues), myoglobin (an element related to oxygen supply in our muscles), and many other important enzymes, proteins and other materials which our body needs.
Iron Woman: The Importance of Iron in your Pregnancy Diet
The recommended amount of iron for pregnant women is about 27 mg per day.
For comparison, the recommended amount for non-pregnant women is about 18 mg per day – an increase of almost 50 percent! In addition, it has been proved that pregnant women’s iron absorption is more efficient than non-pregnant women’s! So obviously, iron is exceptionally important in the diet while pregnant.
There are several reasons for the increased need in iron amongst pregnant women. The two main ones are:
- Since your growing baby absorbs all of the nutritious ingredients he or she needs from your body, you must have more iron than usual in order to provide both of you with this so-important mineral – especially in the second and third trimesters.
- During pregnancy the amount of blood in your body will increase in about 50 percent! In order to allow this unusually large amount of blood to do its job properly (transporting oxygen throughout your body) you need an unusually large amount of iron…!
Iron Age: The Risks of Not Having Enough Iron during Pregnancy
There’s no doubt that iron in your diet while pregnant is extremely important. And this is why iron deficiency while pregnant is a known source for many difficulties and risks:
- Pregnant women’s iron deficiency might directly affect their babies, and lead to anemia, weak immune system, cognitive difficulties and many other problems.
- The risk that a pregnant woman will become ill or sick is significantly higher with low levels of iron. In addition, illnesses will be longer and more severe.
- A pregnant woman with low iron will feel tired, exhausted and depleted from energy. Simple actions will become hard to carry out.
- Mood and spirit are also affected from low iron – pregnant women with low iron are likely to be upset, anxious and in a general bad mood. It might also lead to postpartum depression.
- Low iron might Increase the risk to numerous birth complications, such as low birth weight, massive blood loss during delivery, preterm delivery and more. Almost needless to mention that all of those birth complications are a great danger for both the newborn baby and the mother.
Note that the risks of not having enough iron during pregnancy begin even before conceiving – Many women begin their pregnancy when they are already low on iron and iron reserves.
Low levels of iron are an opening for all of the risks mentioned above. The chance of experiencing one or more of them will grow as the mother’s levels of iron will decrease.
Severe deficiency of iron may lead to a condition known as iron deficiency anemia. If a pregnant woman will find herself in this condition, the chance to be afflicted by those risks will grow significantly.
In addition to all that, it is important to mention that too much iron is also not a good thing for a pregnant woman – it has been proven to be connected with causing high blood pressure, which may cause many problems and complications for both the mother and the baby! In other words – do not take iron supplements without consulting first with your doctor or dietitian consultant…!
Due to all the above, it is clear that every pregnant woman should keep in mind the importance of iron in her diet while pregnant. We also recommend that you will consult with your doctor or dietitian about the best ways for you to have the right amount iron in your pregnancy diet.