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Pregnancy—iron deficiency anaemia

Anaemia means you have a low level of red blood cells in your body. Your red blood cells carry oxygen to all of the cells in your body, including to the placenta. During pregnancy it is very common for women to become anaemic. While there are many causes of anaemia, the most common cause is not having enough iron.  

Iron is essential for making red blood cells. During pregnancy, your total blood volume increases significantly; therefore, you need more iron to make more red blood cells. Your growing baby and placenta also require extra iron. Many women become pregnant without adequate stores of iron to meet the increased demands of their body and their baby.

Iron is found in some of the foods we eat. The best dietary source of iron is red meat. Other good sources include other meats, fortified breads and cereals, green leafy vegetables, legumes and some nuts. You can help your body absorb more iron from non-meat sources by including vitamin C rich foods at the same meal, such as tomato, capsicum, citrus fruits and kiwifruit.

Some suggestions include using:

  • capsicum in a stir fry to enhance iron absorption from your greens, and noodles or rice
  • tomato in a sandwich to enhance absorption from bread and baby spinach
  • a small glass of orange juice with your breakfast cereal to enhance absorption of iron from your fortified cereal.

However, it can be difficult to obtain enough iron from your diet. Your doctor may decide that you require an iron supplement or an iron infusion (drip in the arm).

Please see the following information about treatment for iron deficiency. Alternatively, we recommend you speak with your maternity care provider.

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-430068
Last modified 08/8/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 28/10/2014
For further translated health information, you can visit healthtranslations.vic.gov.au/ supported by the Victorian Department of Health and Human Services that offers a range of patient information in multiple languages.
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