How to Get the Iron You Need to Prevent Anemia During Pregnancy

Pregnant woman making salad
Tetra Images/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

Anemia in pregnancy is common and it is most often caused by an iron deficiency. Iron is a mineral that everyone needs. Pregnant women need more iron for a variety of reasons. The biggest reason is that iron helps your body make new blood to carry the oxygen and nutrients to the baby during pregnancy. By the end of pregnancy, you will have a 30-50% increase in your blood in your body than when you began the pregnancy. Your need for iron will increase 100% over your requirements pre-pregnancy.

Towards the end of pregnancy, your baby will also be storing iron for his or her first six months of life. Babies generally do not get much iron from their mother's diets during this time and depend upon their own stores of iron.

Testing for Anemia During Pregnancy

Whether you have these signs of anemia or not, you will usually be tested at least twice during pregnancy for anemia. The timing is usually at the beginning of pregnancy and again around 28 weeks.

Testing between 24 and 32 weeks is not ideal as the body, at this point, has just had a large surge in blood volume, and it takes a while for all the levels to balance out.

So, if you are tested during this time frame and it shows that you are anemic, you might not be. Ask to be retested around 34 to 36 weeks.

Anemia Risk Factors

  • If you have been dieting to lose weight.
  • If your pregnancies are closer than two years apart
  • If you bled heavily with your periods
  • If you don't eat foods high in iron
  • If you have tested low or been told you have anemia

The very best way to get the iron you need is from your diet, iron pills are not the answer for everyone. Iron pills can cause diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, prevent your body from taking in other nutrients, and are not as readily absorbed as iron from food. It will also take up to six weeks for any treatment you use to show up, generally.

If you do need supplemental iron, consider getting it from liquid sources, such as Chlorophyll, Flora-Dix (vitamin), or herbs such as yellow dock. Your practitioner can give you more information.

Signs of Anemia

Being low in iron can also cause you to feel more fatigued than normal in pregnancy, make you more susceptible to illness and infection, and other possible complications.

These are some of the common signs of anemia in pregnancy:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • shortness of breath
  • Feeling cold, especially in the hands and feet
  • Paleness
  • Headaches
  • Trouble concentrating

Tips for Preventing Anemia in Pregnancy

There are plenty of ways to get more iron in your diet. Here are a few hints to help increase the absorption of the iron in your diet:

  • Increase vitamin C when taking supplements
  • Cook with cast iron
  • Avoid caffeine
  • Avoid excessive bran

Iron-Rich Foods

Make a point to incorporate foods that are particularly high in iron, such as:

  • Green leafy vegetables like broccoli, spinach, greens, kale, and bok choy
  • Tofu
  • Kidney beans
  • Black-eyed peas
  • Whole-grain bread and cereal
  • Eggs
  • Brown rice
  • Enriched pasta
  • Lean red meats

You will need iron for the rest of your life; everyone needs iron. Preventing or treating anemia will make you feel better and healthier throughout your life. You will want to find a way that helps you get your iron through nutrition whenever possible.

Was this page helpful?
Article Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Gabbe, S, Niebyl, J, Simpson, JL. Obstetrics: Normal and Problem Pregnancies, Sixth Edition.

  • Susun Weed. Wise Woman Herbal for the Childbearing Year. Ash Tree Publishing. 1996.

Related Articles