What is the Importance of Taking Prenatal Iron?

Autumn Rivers

Most pregnant women know the importance of taking prenatal vitamins, but not everyone knows that iron is one of the most crucial elements of this kind of supplement. During pregnancy, the blood volume increases greatly, but the red cell count often has trouble keeping up with the plasma. This leads to a deficiency of hemoglobin, often resulting in anemia. Not only can anemia cause fatigue and weakness, but it can also lead to chest pain, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, or even preterm labor. These health concerns make prenatal iron a particularly important addition to prenatal supplements.

Iron supplements can compensate for the increase in blood volume a woman experiences during pregnancy.
Iron supplements can compensate for the increase in blood volume a woman experiences during pregnancy.

Pregnancy causes the blood volume to increase greatly, which would not be a problem if all the components of blood could keep up. Unfortunately, the plasma, which is the water element of the blood, usually increases much more than the red blood cells do. Red blood cells are responsible for carrying oxygen from the lungs to other body parts, so a deficiency of these cells often produces bothersome side effects. It can also lead to preterm delivery of the baby, as well as low birth weight.

Some of the most common side effects of iron deficiency include extreme fatigue, weakness, and dizziness. Women who do not treat the issue with prenatal iron may begin to feel other side effects, such as headaches, irritability, poor work performance, pale skin, and hands and feet that are constantly cold. If not treated soon, even more worrisome effects are often felt, including low body temperature, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, and difficulty breathing. Not surprisingly, these issues could cause some women to go into labor early, which is often dangerous. Additionally, many women already feel tired and irritable enough during pregnancy, and would not appreciate anemia making it worse, which is why prenatal iron is crucial.

These side effects can usually be prevented by taking a prenatal supplement that has iron. In fact, taking prenatal iron before, during, and after pregnancy is often best to ensure that the body is ready for the changes that come both during pregnancy and the postpartum period. Most pregnant women are checked for anemia twice, with the first time being in the first trimester, with the second time around week 28, since many women are most susceptible to this issue during the third trimester. Women who are diagnosed with anemia during this time are usually advised to take a prenatal iron supplement in addition to their regular prenatal vitamins, though eating iron-rich foods is also helpful. These include dried fruits, whole grains, oatmeal, chicken, baked potatoes, and cereals fortified with iron, to name a few foods packed with this mineral.

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