Mild iron-deficiency, or anaemia, in pregnancy is a relatively common condition as your blood volume increases by almost 50 percent. This means that more iron is needed to make extra haemoglobin to help transport oxygen around the body.

Symptoms of iron-deficiency in pregnancy

  • Fatigue
  • Weak nails
  • Shortness of breath
  • Pale pallor
  • Weakness
  • Light-headedness
  • Cold hands and feet

Severe iron-deficiency or anemia in pregnancy is associated with premature labour, low birth weight, and infant mortality. However, the risk is very low in the UK as your iron levels are regularly checked at your antenatal appointments.

If you began your pregnancy with low iron stores then you need to focus on rebuilding them through your dietary choices  in order to avoid supplementation. This is a slow process as our bodies can only absorb a small amount each day. See the foundations of a healthy diet: part two for more information.


Iron is required for your baby’s brain development and building a healthy blood supply. You will be routinely screened for iron-deficiency anemia in pregnancy.

Did you know?

  • Vitamin C helps to increase how much iron is absorbed by your body
  • Caffeinated drinks, calcium supplements and antacids block iron from being absorbed by your body
  • It is estimated that only 20% of the iron available in our food is actually absorbed into our body, in a typical western diet. This highlights the need to plan your eating to ensure optimal iron absorption.
How much do iron I need?

During pregnancy and breastfeeding you need 14.8 mg of iron daily.

Good sources of iron

Iron from red meat is more easily absorbed than iron from pulses and plants. Also, the darker the meat, the more iron it contains.

  • Spinach (2.7mg per 100g)
  • Grass-fed-beef (2mg per 100g)
  • Eggs (0.6mg per large egg)
  • Lentils (3.3mg per 100g)
  • Dried apricots (2.7mg per 100g)

See the foundations of a healthy diet: part two for more information.

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