Iron supplements are typically given to women who suffer from anemia during pregnancy. Anemia is a condition characterized by low blood iron levels. The supplements are usually taken daily, but researchers are now reporting that iron supplements do not need to be taken on a daily basis. Rather – supplements can be taken three times a week and still prevent or treat anemia.
Iron and the Pregnant Woman
Low blood iron or anemia can cause complications during birth and possibly birth defects like reduced fetal growth and long-term developmental delays. Obstetricians test blood iron throughout pregnancy to detect and treat anemia as it occurs. Most forms of anemia are simple to treat with an iron supplement, but that supplement is not necessary every day. In trials of more than 4,000 women, taking iron supplements one time a week, two times a week and three times a week were just as effective as taking iron supplements seven times a week. Taking iron supplements can cause negative side effects like constipation, which may already be a problem for pregnant women, so reducing the amount of iron taken via supplementation is important.
Researchers noted the study was probably most effective for countries where anemia is not a regular problem during pregnancy. With good prenatal and antenatal care, the risk of suffering anemia is reduced dramatically.
Before jumping to conclusions and changing how iron supplements are prescribed, researchers wanted doctors to know then quality of the studies was not the best. There were small participant pools and lax controls for some of the studies, but the outcome is a start and could lead to further study on the subject.
Good Dietary Source of Iron
Pregnant women and recent mothers can also increase iron intake by eating red meats and cooking in cast iron skillets. Eating tomatoes before consuming iron-rich meals can also increase the natural absorption of iron.
Source: Wiley. July 12, 2012.