Health01 Oct 2010 11:13 am
Iron deficiency anemia–a lack of iron in the blood–occurs in about 20 percent of pregnant women in the United States. A woman’s iron requirement increases significantly during pregnancy. Iron is essential for making hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume can increase by almost 50 percent, and more iron is necessary to effectively produce more hemoglobin for all that additional blood. Extra iron is also crucial for the health of a developing fetus and nutrient rich placenta.
This is why the amount of iron a woman needs during pregnancy shoots up from 18 to 27 milligrams (mg) per day. Unfortunately, most women start pregnancy without sufficient stores of iron to meet their body’s increased demands, particularly in the second and third trimesters. If you get to the point where you no longer have enough iron to make the hemoglobin you need, you become anemic.
Because it’s hard to get enough iron through diet alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that pregnant women take a daily supplement of 30 mg of elemental iron as a preventive dose. Many prenatal supplements contain that amount. Supplements are especially important when an individual is experiencing clinical symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. The goals of providing oral iron supplements are to supply sufficient iron to restore normal storage levels of iron and to replenish hemoglobin deficits. When hemoglobin levels are below normal, physicians often measure serum ferritin, the storage form of iron. A serum ferritin level less than or equal to 15 micrograms per liter confirms iron deficiency anemia in women, and suggests a possible need for iron supplementation.