Q: I'm a vegetarian. Do I need to worry about getting enough iron during pregnancy?
A: Women need extra iron during pregnancy (about 30 milligrams a day, compared to the 18 milligrams that's recommended for non-pregnant women), and since meat is one of the most common sources of the mineral, some vegetarian moms-to-be may be concerned they're not getting enough. But taking an iron supplement or a prenatal vitamin high in iron and getting enough plant sources of iron (like beans, whole grains, and dark leafy green veggies) should keep you healthy. Eating foods high in vitamin C (like citrus fruits, red peppers, sweet potatoes, and broccoli) along with iron-rich foods will help increase your body's absorption of iron.
The biggest risk of not getting enough iron is that you could develop iron-deficiency anemia, a condition where your body isn't getting enough iron to keep your red blood cells and immune system healthy. This can make you feel exhausted or dizzy, and it can leave you more prone to getting sick, but it shouldn't pose serious problems for your baby.
Let your doctor know about your concerns. He or she can help you evaluate your diet, make sure you're not at risk for becoming iron-deficient, and decide whether a supplement is right for you.