Health & Fitness, Pregnancy, Women Guide

Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy

Symptoms are exhaustion, shortness of breath and increased susceptibility to infection – in Germany not uncommon: iron deficiency in pregnancy. Iron is responsible for hemoglobin production; a long-term lack leads to anemia. The food can cover the daily requirement. Alternatively, you should include it with a ferrous preparation. Self-medication is not recommended, as too much iron can cause health problems.

Symptoms: How is iron deficiency noticeable?

Typical symptoms of iron deficiency, especially in pregnancy, are fatigue, shortness of breath and increased susceptibility to infection. Other symptoms of a lack of iron include that hair and nails can become brittle, tearing the corners of the mouth, and also headaches, palpitations, and ringing in the ears can occur. Iron is responsible for the production of hemoglobin and this for the binding of oxygen to the red blood cells.

An iron deficiency during pregnancy also affects the baby because it is supplied through the bloodstream: the development of the placenta suffers, which limits the supply of nutrients and oxygen. Affected infants are often born with low birth weight; there is also the possibility of premature birth. After all, giving birth to the mother is a risk if there are not enough blood reserves available. The heart is more heavily loaded, blood transfusions may be required.


During pregnancy, blood counts are routinely generated to show hemoglobin levels. Slightly decreased values are normal at this time, because of the higher volume of blood needed to supply the unborn child, relatively fewer red blood cells are present and the child’s iron needs are given priority. Especially with multiple and short consecutive pregnancies, your iron storage is exhausted faster.

If the hemoglobin value is below ten grams per deciliter of blood, a high-risk pregnancy is to be expected. If an iron deficiency is diagnosed, the doctor can give you tips on nutrition; possibly he will additionally prescribe an iron-containing preparation. In the latter case, side effects such as constipation, nausea or diarrhea are possible but can be limited by the diet or other drugs. More severe anemia may require the intravenous supply of iron.

Daily needs

The “German Society of Nutrition” recommends to take 30 milligrams of iron during the day with the food during the day or to meet the demand for iron-containing preparations. In the case of a deficiency, the demand increases in the short term until the hemoglobin level has recovered.

Ferrous foods

Iron is mainly present in meat, exceptionally lean; red beef should be on the menu. Other ferrous foods include wholegrain bread, potatoes, legumes, dark green vegetables, raisins and plums. Iron contained in meat can be better utilized than that provided in plants.

It is estimated that on average 10 to 15 percent of the dietary iron is available to the blood. The body needs vitamin C for the most significant possible utilization, and this requirement can be met with the corresponding fruits, vegetables and fruit juices. Since coffee and tea complicate the intake, both should not be drunk during meals.

Function in the body

The iron is transported via the protein transferrin formed in the liver. Via this, it reaches the bone marrow, where the red blood cells are formed. Furthermore, iron is essential to oxygenate the muscles; iron is needed for the energy supply and function maintenance of the cells, the brain needs the mineral for the production of the messenger substances that serve to transmit the stimulus.

The body partially defends itself against an iron deficiency: The red blood cells are active for about 120 days and are then broken down, mainly responsible for the so-called phagocytes in the liver and spleen. The contained iron is not excreted, but recycled, otherwise about 25 milligrams of iron would be lost daily.

Thus, the loss in a healthy person is limited to 1 to 2 milligrams per day, for example, due to bleeding and dead cells. Naturally, during menstruation, the loss is slightly higher.

Iron overload

Like iron deficiency, a surplus also carries health risks. Hypertension can occur and, as the iron accumulates in the organs, it damages them. Therefore, it is advisable to discourage self-medication and, in case of suspected deficiency, to consult a doctor who gives advice on nutrition after a blood test or prescribes a preparation with the appropriate dosage.


  • … leads to fatigue, shortness of breath increased susceptibility to infections and anemia.
  • … insufficient oxygen supply to the unborn child.
  • … low birth weight, the risk of premature birth.
  • Prevention: Need to cover iron-containing foods.
  • In case of a diagnosed deficiency take iron-containing preparations.

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