Iron and Pregnancy

Iron and Pregnancy

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Iron is essential to normal human physiology. Iron is an integral part of many proteins and enzymes that maintain good health. In humans, iron is an essential component of proteins involved in oxygen transport. A deficiency of iron limits oxygen delivery to cells, resulting in fatigue, poor work performance, and decreased immunity. On the other hand, excess amounts of iron can result in toxicity and even death.

All pregnant women, those contemplating a pregnancy and breastfeeding mothers are encourage to taking Iodine supplements to increase iodine intake by 100 mcg per day. The only exception to this recommendation for iodine supplementation is women with pre-existing thyroid disease who should be individually managed to ensure normal thyroid function during pregnancy.

Folate is the naturally-occurring form of a water-soluble B group vitamin. It is referred to as Folic acid when it is in its man-made form, which is used in supplements (tablets) or added to food. Folate is used within the body for cell regeneration and growth and is needed in increased levels by pregnant women. Evidence suggests that adequate folate has more benefits to pregnant women than preventing Spina bifida, it may also reduce the risk of early deliveries and low birth weight babies.

Iron Supplements during Pregnancy and Lactation
Almost two-thirds of iron in the body is found in hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to tissues.

Smaller amounts of iron are found in myoglobin, a protein that helps supply oxygen to muscle, and in enzymes that assist biochemical reactions. Iron is also found in proteins that store iron for future needs and that transport iron in blood. Iron stores are regulated by intestinal iron absorption.


There are two forms of dietary iron:

  • Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that delivers oxygen to cells. Heme iron is found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry.
  • Non-heme iron is found in plant foods such as lentils and beans. This is the form of iron added to iron-enriched and iron-fortified foods.

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