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Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy: Prevention Tips

Iron plays a pivotal role in your pregnancy. Your body needs iron for the production of hemoglobin, the protein in your red blood cells responsible for carrying oxygen. 

During pregnancy, your body's demand for iron increases to support your growing baby and the expansion of your blood volume. If your intake of iron is insufficient to meet these demands, you may develop iron deficiency anemia. 

Iron deficiency anemia means that your body can’t make enough oxygen-producing red blood cells. This can lead to fatigue, fainting, palpitations, and sleep trouble. 

Our team here at Westover Hills Women’s Health provides for all aspects of your pregnancy, and that includes helping you reduce your risk of complications such as iron deficiency anemia. 

We’re happy to discuss your specific iron needs (which we can easily monitor with blood tests), but in general, you can reduce your risk of iron deficiency anemia by keeping the following tips in mind.

Get enough iron in your diet

When you are pregnant, you need more iron (27 milligrams) than you did before you were pregnant. 

Include iron-rich foods such as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, lentils, tofu, and fortified cereals in your meals. Plant-based sources of iron, such as spinach, chickpeas, and legumes, are good choices for vegetarian and vegan mothers.

Tip: You can enhance iron absorption by pairing iron-rich foods with those high in vitamin C. Citrus fruits (oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits), strawberries, tomatoes, and sweet bell peppers are excellent choices. 

Consuming vitamin C-rich foods along with iron-rich meals can boost your body's ability to absorb iron.

Cook in cast-iron pans

Cooking in cast-iron pans can infuse small amounts of iron into your food and contribute to your overall iron intake. This is a simple yet effective way to support your iron levels.

As a bonus, cast-iron pans help you avoid the harmful toxins in nonstick cookware. Nonstick coatings that contain perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) can increase your risk of preeclampsia and decrease birth weight.

Eat calcium-rich foods away from your iron-containing foods

Calcium can hinder the absorption of nonheme iron (the type of iron found in plant-based foods) when consumed simultaneously. To maximize iron absorption, avoid calcium-rich foods (e.g., dairy products) during meals containing iron-rich sources.

Attend your routine prenatal checkups

Attend regular prenatal checkups to monitor your iron levels. As part of your routine care, we perform routine blood tests to assess your hemoglobin and iron status. 

Take iron supplements (if directed to do so)

If dietary sources alone are insufficient to meet iron requirements, we may recommend iron supplements. 

Take these supplements as prescribed to prevent iron deficiency anemia, but avoid self-prescribing iron supplements without professional guidance. While you need more iron during pregnancy, too much iron can be equally problematic

Stay hydrated

Stay adequately hydrated. Water is essential for your overall health, and proper hydration is even more important when you’re pregnant. Proper hydration supports the transport of nutrients, including iron, throughout your body.

Listen to your body

Pay attention to signs of fatigue, weakness, or shortness of breath, as these may indicate iron deficiency anemia. If you experience such symptoms, let us know.

Get the prenatal care you need in San Antonio

Whether you’re an established patient with a question or you’re newly pregnant and would like to establish care, call one of our San Antonio, Texas, offices to speak with our friendly staff. You can also use our online tool to request your next prenatal appointment.

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