Iron Important During Pregnancy

Photo: Melissa Yip - Dietitian
Thursday, 2 June 2016
With about 10 per cent of new mums in Portland showing signs of iron deficiency, Portland District Health is offering help to ease the problem.

PDH midwifery coordinator Colleen Hanmer said that since July last year one in ten mothers birthing at Portland were identified as having low Iron stores in their third trimester.

This meant the expectant women required further management prior to birthing.

PDH dietitian Melissa Yip said your body needs more iron when you are pregnant because both you and your baby are growing.

Iron is needed to make healthy blood – having low iron levels may result in feeling tired, having poor concentration and an increased risk of infections. Your baby's growth will be affected, and is at higher risk of being born too early.

There are two types of iron in food: from animal foods and from plant foods. Iron from animal foods is about 10 times better absorbed by the body compared to iron from plant foods. Red meats such as beef, lamb and kangaroo are the best source of iron - the redder the meat, the higher it is in iron. Coloured flesh fish, such as tuna and mullet, are higher in iron than reef fish, such as barramundi.

Plant food sources of iron include fortified bread and cereals, legumes (such as kidney beans, baked beans, chickpeas) and green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, bok choy. If plant foods are your only source of iron, you will need to eat a much larger quantity as they are not well-absorbed by the body. Eating foods that are high in Vitamin C can help to increase iron absorption. Avoiding tea, coffee and high-calcium foods like cheese and milk whilst eating iron-rich foods will also increase the amount of iron taken up by the body.

Pregnant women need 27mg of iron each day and should not have more than 45 mg iron each day. Iron tablets should be taken only after blood tests have confirmed low levels. New mothers should also have iron levels checked again after giving birth as this can affect breastfed babies who rely on their mother's iron stores.

For more information about healthy eating during pregnancy, make an appointment with the Dietitians at PDH. No referrals are necessary and walk-in and self-referrals are accepted.

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