Iron deficiency during pregnancy
Iron and your diet
Blood tests for iron
About iron supplements
Types of iron supplements
How to take iron supplements
Iron is an essential mineral that helps our bodies to transport and release oxygen to all our cells. Iron works in partnership with folic acid and vitamin B12 to produce 'haemoglobin' or red blood cells. Red blood cells live in the body for about 4 months before regenerating. A person's red cell blood count can deplete if they become iron deficient. You can read more about iron deficiency in vitamins and minerals - iron.
The recommended daily intake of iron varies between people of different ages and between men and women. As a guide, children should aim to have about 7 to 9 mg (milligrams) a day, teenagers about 10-13 mg and adult men about 7 to 10 mg. However, women of childbearing age (19 to 50 years) need approximately 14 to 18 mg per day (because they lose iron through menstruating each month).
When a woman becomes pregnant her iron needs increase to support her pregnancy and the growth of her baby(s). This can be up to 22 to 27 mg per day, especially during the last 3 months of the pregnancy when her baby stores iron in their liver. The baby's 'iron storage' is nature's way of providing them with adequate iron for the first 6 months of their life after birth, before they need to start eating solid foods. During breastfeeding a woman's iron requirement will slowly decrease (after recovering from the normal blood lost at the birth) and will tend to be about 10 to 12 mg per day, until her periods recommence.
Having a sufficient iron intake during pregnancy helps you to avoid iron deficiency and an abnormal lowering of your red blood cell count (or 'haemoglobin'), also known as 'anaemia'. An adequate haemoglobin level contributes to: