According to the World Health Organization, the prevalence of anemia in pregnancy varies considerably because of differences in socioeconomic conditions, lifestyles and health-seeking behaviors across different cultures. Anemia affects nearly ¼ of all pregnant women in the developed world. Here is the low-down on iron supplements and iron absorption from various foods in case your doc identifies it as an issue.
- Look for the word ferrous on the supplement, not ferric.
- Take your iron supplement at a different time of day than your prenatal vitamin.
- Constipation is most common complaint from iron supplementation. Make sure you're diligent about fiber and fluid intake and ask doc for a stool softener if you feel like you're straining at all! Pregnancy makes you feel gross enough without hemorrhoids ;)
Iron from these foods is absorbed really well:
- Liver (refrigerated pate is not safe during pregnancy for the same reason as lunchmeat, but canned and shelf stable pate is safe; don't overdo this option though because there's a ton of vitamin A which you don't want too much of during pregnancy)
- Oysters (cooked only while pregnant)
- Beef: ranges from 1.6-3.1 mg per 3 oz serving; chuck has the highest
- Turkey: dark meat has more (2mg/3oz vs 1.1 mg/3 oz light meat)
- Tuna: light canned is higher than fresh (since this is considered a high mercury item, limite consumption to no more than three 6-oz servings per month)
- Chicken: (dark meat is higher again, but not as big of difference as turkey)
- Crab, Pork, Shrimp and Halibut all provide less than 1mg per 3 oz serving, but still have the highly absorbable form!
These provide iron, but in a form that's not absorbed as well as the above:
- Iron-fortified cereal and oatmeal
- Lentils and beans
- Spinach (fresh has higher content than canned or frozen)
Foods that increase iron absorption from the list above:
- Meat protein
- Vitamin C (listed from highest first: red bell pepper, orange juice, oranges, grapefruit juice, kiwi, green bell pepper, broccoli, strawberries, Brussels sprouts)
Foods that decrease iron absorption:
- Tannins (found in tea)
- Calcium (from foods and supplements)
- Phytates (from beans and whole grains)
- Protein from soy