Iron – important during pregnancy and breastfeeding

During pregnancy and breastfeeding, the needs for iron increase by up to 100 %. Thus an appropriate provision of iron is very important now.

As our body cannot produce iron by itself, it has to be provided from the outside. The trace element iron takes part in many metabolic processes in the body. The most important part is the formation of red blood cells which are responsible for the oxygen provision of the body. Iron is the central component of haemoglobin contained in the red blood cells. A reduced haemoglobin concentration within the blood or a reduced number of red blood cells impairs the oxygen provision and consequently the physical and mental performance as well as the immune defence, which shows in an increased susceptibility to infections.

At the beginning of a pregnancy, the quantity of blood of the future mother is increased as the placenta is built to secure the optimal oxygen provision of the unborn child. Especially at the beginning this is very important for the blood formation and cerebral development of the foetus. Furthermore an iron depot for the first weeks of life is built in the child. Often, a great part of the iron reserve stored as ferritin predominantly in the liver, is used up during pregnancy and birth. During the following period of breastfeeding, the baby’s iron needs are completely covered by the mother. Therefore, an adequate iron provision of the mother is indispensable during breastfeeding, too.

Test your iron levels

According to the German Nutrition Association (DGE), pregnant women should see for an intake of 30 mg, breastfeeding mothers for an intake of 20 mg iron per day. Women who desire to have a child should test their iron levels in advance and, as the case may be, provide additional iron already then. In this context, a well compatible iron preparation, preferably in pharmaceutical quality, should be taken from the 13th week of pregnancy at the latest. This supports the formation of the blood reservoir and improves the iron reserves for the further pregnancy.

With view to food, meat is the most important source of iron and B-vitamins. This applies particularly to red flesh and entrails as e.g. liver. One of the most iron-rich foods is pork liver. 100 g contain about 14 mg iron. There are also vegetable foods which are rich in iron. There however, the iron is available in trivalent form, the body can only absorb from the intestines in very small quantities. Our organism can absorb and assimilate bivalent iron the best. For this reason a supplementation with a bivalent iron preparation and if necessary also with B-vitamins, is recommended during pregnancy after consultation with a medical doctor, in order to prevent an iron deficiency.

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