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Experts Corner

Nutrition

Iron Needs During Pregnancy
By Mediconsult's Nutrition Services

Q. Why do I need extra iron?

A. Pregnancy is a time of growth of new maternal and fetal tissues. In order to support this growth, blood volume and contents must grow to help feed these tissues, including red blood cells. Further, about one-third of your iron stores will be passed on to your developing baby to form its blood and to be stored for future use.

One of the most common causes of anemia during pregnancy is iron deficiency. Anemia is the reduced ability of the blood to carry oxygen to your body's cells and the growing baby. To support these needs, the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) has been set at 30 milligrams (mg) per day during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

It is hard to get enough iron from your diet to support a pregnancy and iron supplementation may be necessary. Major dietary sources of iron include liver, kidneys, red meat, poultry, eggs, peas, legumes (dried beans), dried fruits, dark green leafy vegetables, enriched breads and cereals. The iron contained in plant foods is best absorbed when a vitamin C rich food is eaten at the same meal.

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