I was recently at my doctor’s for a normal pregnancy check-up, and I was mildly surprised when I tested low in iron, which is essential for making hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells throughout your body (and to your baby). Apparently, iron deficiency is pretty common during pregnancy. That’s because you need extra iron for your baby and your overall blood volume is higher than normal.
I was at-risk for iron deficiency (anemia) because I’m a vegetarian (meat is a readily available source of iron). I’ve read that back-to-back pregnancies, severe morning sickness, a multiples pregnancy, a heavy pre-pregnancy menstrual flow, or other factors can also up your risk for anemia.
My doctor prescribed an iron supplement to take in addition to my prenatal vitamins. She also gave me a list of iron-rich vegetarian foods to eat, like beans, lentils, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin seeds, and pine nuts.
In addition, I wanted to share a few tips that I learned from a registered dietitian about getting the most from your iron supplement or iron-rich foods.
- Vitamin C helps with absorption of iron, so wash your iron supplement down with orange juice.
- Calcium interferes with the absorption of iron, so avoid eating dairy products within three hours of taking your supplement.
- Furthermore, coffee and tea also interfere with your absorption of iron.
- Iron supplements can be toxic to children, so keep them far, far away from little one’s grasping fingers.
Honestly, it’s a little confusing to keep this all straight. I end up juggling all my supplements and meals each day to make it work. But hopefully, at my next check-up, my iron levels will be back to normal, and it will all be worth it!