Iron is a mineral that's essential to the manufacture of red blood cells, and once you're pregnant your body needs twice as much iron as normal. Without enough iron you'll develop iron deficiency anemia. Babies born to extremely anemic mothers have a higher chance of low birthweight and preterm birth. Anemia can also make you feel sluggish and tired.
Prenatal vitamins do contain iron, but it may not be enough for some women. If your iron levels are low, your doctor will prescribe an iron supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamin. If your doctor prescribes extra iron, keep in mind that supplemental iron can contribute to constipation. Drinking plenty of water and eating high-fiber foods can help.
To get enough iron in your diet, eat high-iron foods such as lean red meat, fish, poultry, dried fruits, spinach, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps maximize your body's absorption of iron, so eat some vitamin C-rich foods such as orange juice or strawberries along with your nonmeat iron source.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
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