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New iron recommendations for pregnancy

Advice on new pregnancy iron recommendations with information on supplements, iron deficiency and iron rich foods.
Many women choose to supplement their diet with iron tablets throughout pregnancy so as to avoid anemia, a blood condition where the number of healthy red cells in the blood decreases and to help promote foetal development. However, new research has warned that excess iron may pose an unnecessary risk to both mother and baby.

The newly published study from Iran followed the pregnancy of 727 non-anemic women, 357 of whom took an iron supplement throughout. It found that those who supplemented their diet with the iron preparation were significantly more likely to suffer from high blood pressure and hypertension and to deliver a baby that was small for its gestational age (SGA).

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) currently recommend that non-anemic pregnant women consume sufficient iron in their diet so as to eliminate the need for supplementation. However, many women still take iron pills too. This research highlights a need for a change in attitude to the way vitamins and supplements are consumed throughout pregnancy to ensure that only women who are lacking in nutrients such as iron take tablets to compensate.

It is important to note that the study did not look at the effect of iron supplementation on women suffering from anemia as this is a condition for which iron tablets are necessarily prescribed.

If you are not suffering from anemia then this study suggests you should avoid iron tablets and instead focus on including sufficient iron rich foods in your diet. Foods that contain a high level of iron include leafy green vegetables, red meat, pulses, fortified cereals and dried apricots. To help your body absorb iron you should combine these foods with those rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits or juice, tomatoes, broccoli or cabbage. It is recommended that pregnant women avoid eating liver as although this is rich in iron it may have adverse health effects during this sensitive time.

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Another danger of too much iron in pregnancy is prenatal and neonatal hemachromatosis or iron overload. It is almost always fatal, causing liver failure. Hemachromatosis according to my physician is actually a more common cause of stillbirth than previously known. A woman's blood volume naturally expands during pregnancy thus causing hemaglobin and hematocrit numbers to fall (actually they are just diluted). It is common practice to prescribe iron supplements when this happens as a one size fits all way to prevent anemia in pregnancy. To be safe you can request that a full iron serum blood test be done to actually determine if you are in danger of becoming anemic before taking iron pills. This simple blood test will indicate if you have too much iron or too little. Iron overload can cause organ damage to the mother as well.
by Doodlebug41 20th May 2009, 9:13am