Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy – Part 4 – The Gift of Iron

Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy - Part 4 - The Gift of Iron

The Gift of Iron

Iron requirements also soar during pregnancy. Both the mother and the baby need iron to build red blood cells. A pregnant woman’s blood supply increases by 1/3 over the course of the pregnancy. Babies must grow their entire blood supply from scratch – and scratch includes iron. Iron is also a foundational building block of muscles and of a number of enzymes carrying out vital processes throughout the body.

Iron occurs naturally in a number of foods. Good sources include organic fruits and vegetables such as raisins, apricots, prunes (and prune juice), spinach, kale, and other greens. We get iron when we eat wonderful legumes such as dried beans, soybeans, peas, and lentils, and grains such as oatmeal. Especially rich sources of iron include meat, fish, poultry, and eggs. Liver tops the list. Clearly pregnant women are designed to eat more of at least some of these foods. Iron is one good reason for this, but there may be others not yet discovered. Perhaps iron is one reason why women lay awake dreaming of some of these foods (I can almost smell the juicy cheeseburger with sliced apricots).

A savvy meal planner and smart cookware turn up the heat on iron intake. Eating or drinking foods high in vitamin C (such as orange juice) at the same time as foods high in iron helps the body to absorb and use the iron. Cooking in iron pans can also add iron to foods.

Many foods, especially cereal grains, are now iron-fortified. The iron here is poorly absorbed, but manufacturers have dumped in enough iron to make up for this. In addition, prenatal vitamins contain plenty of iron.

Pregnant women need about 27 mg of iron per day to supply themselves and their babies. A healthy baby born at term should have a store of about 500 mg of iron in her body, all of it a gift from her parents.

Read More from: Eating for Two: A Guide to Mother’s Nutrition during Pregnancy

Eating for Two: Part 1 – Pregnancy A Special Time
Eating for Two: Part 2 – Folate and Iron
Eating for Two: Part 3 – How Much Folate Do You Need?
Eating for Two: Part 4 – The Gift of Iron
Eating for Two: Part 5 – Vitamin B6 and Iodine
Eating for Two Part 6 – Zinc
Eating for Two: Part 7 – Niacin, Riboflavin, Thiamin, Pantothenic Acid, and Omega-3
Eating for Two: Part 8 – Not Found in Most Prenatal Vitamins!
Eating for Two: Part 9 – Calcium!?
Eating for Two: Part 10 – Calories
Eating for Two: Part 11 – Liver
Eating for Two: Part 12 – Chocolate
Eating for Two: Part 13 – Eating for the Future

Dr. Alan Greene

Dr. Greene is the founder of (cited by the AMA as “the pioneer physician Web site”), a practicing pediatrician, father of four, & author of Raising Baby Green & Feeding Baby Green. He appears frequently in the media including such venues as the The New York Times, the TODAY Show, Good Morning America, & the Dr. Oz Show.

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