Handle one issue at a time
During the first trimester, taking iron supplements may make morning sickness symptoms worse. Wait a few weeks until the nausea and vomiting stop if you’re having trouble taking iron before you try it again. Early morning sickness management is much preferable for patients as there is plenty of time for iron supplements to take effect in the second and third trimesters.
If iron worsens constipation, add iron-rich foods that also provide fiber to your diet, such as beans, spinach, and fortified whole-grain cereals. However, we don’t recommend relying on food alone to get the total iron you need in pregnancy.
For persistent constipation, try a stool softener like docusate sodium. Some iron supplements come as a stool softener combination. Alternatively, think about consuming more fiber or taking a fiber supplement.
6 tips for proper iron supplementation
Most women will begin their pregnancies with hematocrit levels in the mid- to upper-30s, which represent the proportion of red blood cells in their total blood volume. Your prenatal lab work may also list another blood count-related number, the hemoglobin level. A normal volume is around 12mg/dL.
Generally, we define iron-deficiency anemia in pregnancy as a hematocrit level of 30% (or a hemoglobin level less than 10mg/dL) in the third trimester But remember, pregnancy does weird things to the body. For instance, your plasma levels will rise faster than those of your red blood cells, which could affect the results of your lab tests.
If your lab results indicate that your hemoglobin or hematocrit are too low, don’t be alarmed because the standard recommendations are designed for non-pregnant adults. Most OB/GYNs will conduct the test again in the third trimester to ensure that you won’t be anemic when you give birth. The timing allows us to supplement heavily with iron if necessary in the final moments.
The amount of elemental iron in each dose of your prenatal vitamins should be listed on the label. Keep an eye out for the word “ferrous,” which may appear as one of the names for elemental iron listed below:
Any form of iron you take will work; there is no difference. Generic and brand name iron supplements usually work equally well. I advise women to experiment with various formulations until they find one that works for them. Remember, iron only works if you actually take it.
It is unlikely that taking too much iron will harm you or your developing fetus. Consult your physician about adjusting your dosage if you have any concerns.
Best iron-rich foods for pregnant women
Lean meat, poultry, and fish are the sources of dietary iron (heme iron) that are most readily absorbed. However, non-animal (non-heme) sources are still advantageous, and pairing them with foods high in vitamin C will increase their absorption.
If you want to increase the amount of iron in your diet but are not a vegetarian or vegan, try including these foods on the menu:
These choices will increase the amount of iron on your plate if you’re vegan, vegetarian, or simply trying to eat more plant-based foods: