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)
  • Raisins

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