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Iron Supplements During Pregnancy: Navigating the Right Choice for You and Your Baby

Congratulations, mama-to-be! As you embark on this beautiful journey of pregnancy, you will likely find alot of mixed messages when it comes to nutrition and supplementation. I am here to clear up some of this confusion and support you to make the best choices possible for you and your baby.


Iron is a key player in supporting your baby's growth and development, but do we all need routine iron supplements during pregnancy? Let's dive into the world of iron and find the best solutions for you and your little one.


The Importance of Iron

Iron is hands down one of the most important nutrients during pregnancy. It helps your body to produce haemoglobin to carry oxygen to your baby and support their rapid growth. It also aids in keeping you energized and focused during this exciting but exhausting phase. So of course it's important that we avoid low iron levels, but does this mean that we all should be taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron every day?


Do we all need a prenatal that contains iron during pregnancy?

While iron supplements are essential for some pregnant women, they may not be necessary for everyone. Each pregnancy is unique, and your iron needs might be different from other pregnant women around you. There are a few things to consider when it comes to iron supplements and deciding whether or not you need them.


First trimester constipation

We experience enough drama in the bowel department during the first trimester without needing to add to our woes with unnecessary iron supplementation. Iron can be really upsetting for some womens GI systems, especially depending on the type. If your blood tests are indicating that your iron levels look good in your first trimester and your dietary intake is on track, then you do not have to supplement. If you do need to, then it's crucial to choose the right form to avoid any unwanted side effects.


Best forms of iron

Seek out "iron bisglycinate" or "iron glycinate" supplements as these are known to be gentle on the digestive system and less likely to cause tummy troubles (1). The form of iron that is most commonly associated with constipation and/or diarrhoea, is ferrous sulfate. Ferrous sulfate is a common and widely available form of iron supplement and often found in our prenatal vitamins. Some women will have no problems tolerating ferrous sulphate and if this is you then it's absolutely ok to take it (when necessary), but for others it's important to find a form that best suits you.


The Side Effects of Unnecessary Iron Supplementation

Remember, more is not always better, especially when it comes to iron supplements. Overdoing iron can lead to side effects like increasing the risk of gestational diabetes (2). It can also interfere with the absorption of other nutrients such as zinc and copper, which are important for your baby during pregnancy.


Conclusion

Remember that your nutrient needs during pregnancy are 100% unique to you. This goes for not just iron but everything that we are often told to supplement with or eat more of during pregnancy. If you would like some reassurance and support that your diet is on track then please reach out to us and we can support you to develop a personalised plan for you. You can get started right away on improving your nutrition through simple, effective changes by downloading our FREE guide to nutrition during pregnancy.


Trust your instincts and learn as much as you can from qualified pregnancy nutrition specialists and experts, eat a balanced diet, and keep that beautiful smile on your face. You've got this, mama!




References:

  1. Melamed, N., Ben-Haroush, A., Kaplan, B. et al. Iron supplementation in pregnancy—does the preparation matter?. Arch Gynecol Obstet276, 601–604 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00404-007-0388-3

  2. Helin A, Kinnunen TI, Raitanen J, et al Iron intake, haemoglobin and risk of gestational diabetes: a prospective cohort study BMJ Open 2012;2:e001730. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-001730

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