One of the most essential minerals during pregnancy is Iron. This is a naturally occurring mineral which is found in several foods. Iron is crucial for several fundamental biological processes. It serves as an important haemoglobin element. Iron also serves as a red blood cells (erythrocyte) protein and facilitates oxygen transportation. Its functions are also involved in certain hormonal synthesis, physical and neurological development.

Nutritional deficiency of Iron can arise due to several factors. Sometimes it can be due to consumption of a diet which lacks micronutrients and in rare cases, there can be genetic reasons too. Indian diet is calorie-rich (carbohydrate-rich) but micronutrient-deficient.  Indian pregnant women have numerous deficiencies which can impact the short-term and long-term development of the baby as well as their health & wellbeing.  Nearly 80% Indian women are anaemic!

Healthy pregnancy outcomes depend on a healthy, nutritious diet. A diet which is full of nutrients, minerals, and vitamins supports the health of both the mother-to-be and the growing baby. These nutrients, vitamins, minerals serve as the building blocks of the human body. Their requirements largely increase during pregnancy as the mother-to-be has to support a new life too. Thus, she needs a well-balanced diet as well as supplementation in form of tablets to meet the gaps in her diet.

It can be difficult to get enough Iron intake during pregnancy, even though a pregnant woman carefully tries to include Iron in her diet. If she is a vegetarian or vegan, and doesn’t eat Iron-rich meat or poultry, she faces a bigger battle. That’s why during pregnancy, increasing the intake of Iron-rich foods can be significant.

The dietary Iron is found in two forms, which are:

  1. Heme
  2. Non-heme

Nonheme Iron is present in several Iron-fortified foods and plants (seeds, fruits, nuts, beans, vegetables, grains, etc.). Both the heme and non-heme components are present in non-vegetarian sources such as poultry, seafood, and meat.

What are the advantages of consuming Iron during pregnancy?

Iron is largely utilised to produce haemoglobin in the body. Haemoglobin is a protein that helps oxygen transportation in the body. The Iron requirement increases during pregnancy and that more blood is needed to carry oxygen to the growing foetus. Hence, a pregnant woman needs twice the amount of Iron, daily, during pregnancy. Deficiency of Iron can lead to conditions like anaemia. Developing anaemia during pregnancy can further put the baby at a higher risk of multiple complications, including preterm birth and low birth weight.

Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy 

Pregnant women are at constant risk of anaemia due to deficiency of Iron. During this condition, the body doesn’t have a sufficient amount of new and healthy red blood cells. That’s the reason the body fails to transport oxygen to every tissue.

There are several symptoms of anaemia due to Iron deficiency:

  • Irregular heartbeats (tachycardia)
  • Fatigue and weakness
  • Headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Breath shortness
  • Skin paleness
  • Dizziness
  • Cold feet and hands

One thing to note here is that a pregnant woman is likely to experience these symptoms during pregnancy in other situations too. Thus, blood screening is required. It is also better to contact the doctor if these symptoms get extreme.

Premature birth is one of the biggest risks caused by Iron deficiency anaemia. Other associated risks include postpartum depression and low birth weight. In rare cases, this condition can get more severe and can lead to the death of the baby post-delivery.

A pregnant woman can experience anaemia during pregnancy if

  • She had two pregnancies, closely spaced.
  • She is pregnant with more than one baby.
  • She has morning sickness and vomiting.
  • She lacks Iron in her diet.
  • She had Iron deficiency anaemia previously.

Iron deficiency anaemia is an alarming condition during pregnancy. It needs immediate attention and proper treatment. This type of anaemia can result in several complications which can impose severe health risks such as

  • Postpartum depression
  • Preterm birth
  • Infections
  • Low birth weight
  • Blood transfusion during pregnancy
  • Impaired growth of the foetus

How can a pregnant woman increase Iron intake through diet?

Iron is found in both vegetarian and non-vegetarian sources. The following food items (vegetarian and non-vegetarian) contain a good amount of Iron and should be included in the regular diet:

  • Dark, green leaves (spinach, kale)
  • Beans, lentils, peas, legumes
  • Soybeans, tofu
  • Nuts, seeds
  • Sesame, pumpkin, flaxseeds
  • Fruits (pomegranate, banana, raspberries, dried apricots, mulberries)
  • Whole grains
  • Meat, poultry, egg, fish

In addition to eating foods rich in Iron, adding foods that can enhance the absorption of Iron, such as foods high in Vitamin C, are also beneficial for the body. Vitamin C facilitates Iron absorption thus, consuming tomatoes, oranges, lemons, etc. is beneficial. Using Iron cookware also enhances the Iron levels in the food.

Indian gynaecologists recommend a dual approach including a well-balanced diet and supplement to every pregnant woman. This approach satisfies the nutritional requirements of the two and maintains proper balance.

When should a pregnant woman take an Iron supplement?

It is recommended to start consuming Iron-rich foods before the first prenatal consultation to avoid Iron deficiency anaemia. Iron-deficient diets are the primary reasons of anaemia, especially when the pregnant woman is vegan or vegetarian and unable to get enough Iron from non-veg sources. Thus, Iron is recommended in the form of pregnancy supplements.

How much Iron is a pregnant woman required to supplement?

ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research) recommends 35 mg of Iron every day. As per the recommendations, the pregnant woman must consume this amount in the form of natural sources such as green leafy vegetables, cereals, etc. However, if she is anaemic, her doctor may prescribe a 60 mg Iron or more during her pregnancy. This is usually given in form of Ferric Ascorbate or Ferrous Fumarate orally.

Why should Iron be given in Slow-Release form? 

Human Body absorbs only 12-18 mg Iron at one time. It’s best to take a small dose of Iron 2-3 times daily for best absorption and minimum side effects. However, this is not practical. Therefore, it is recommended to give an oral dosage of Iron in the form of Slow Release, which is gentle on the stomach. Slow-Release Iron leads to better and continuous absorption without leading to any toxicity in the body which can impact other biological processes. It will also reduce the symptoms of black stools, acidity & gastritis usually caused by a higher dose of Iron.

Can a pregnant woman take an international prenatal pill during pregnancy?

When it comes to choosing prenatal supplements, Indian pregnant women are often confused. Call it the lack of knowledge or any other factors, they often buy international pregnancy tablets in a hope that these international prenatal pills will fulfil their nutritional demands. However, this isn’t true all the time. Every country has a regulatory authority which structures certain guidelines of diet and nutrition for its people. These guidelines differ from country to country. Thus, consuming a prenatal tablet which is prepared in the US or UK for its people won’t be that much beneficial for an Indian pregnant woman since these prenatal supplements don’t follow ICMR guidelines. The amount of nutrients, minerals they have differ from Indian dietary requirements.

Most International pregnancy supplements have inadequate Iron as compared to what is prescribed by Indian Gynaecologists.

Which is the best Iron supplement available for Indian pregnant women?

Choosing the right pregnancy nutrition is a tiring job. A pregnant lady may end up buying international prenatal nutrition available online. Though these prenatal tablets are good, but they are inadequate which means they don’t contain the micronutrients as per the dietary requirements of Indian pregnant ladies. Thus, taking them won’t be enough and there will always be a nutritional gap.

TrimacareTM by PlusPlus Lifesciences is India’s most advanced prenatal supplement which is designed and formulated by a team of doctors, pharmacologists, and nutritionists following the guidelines of WHO and ICMR. TrimacareTM comes in 3 different packs for each trimester, as the pregnancy needs are unique in each trimester, and it provides all the 20+ nutrients required by a pregnant woman and her child holistically and to supplement the needs perfectly.

As per common practices, Iron isn’t given in the form of supplements during the first trimester, thus, TrimacareTM 1 (pregnancy multivitamins for the first trimester) contains no Iron. The first trimester itself is a sensitive phase where the pregnant woman has to deal with a lot of changes and unpleasant experiences (such as morning sickness). Iron can be notorious when it comes to absorption and can lead to constipation, black stool, and other gastric situations. Also, during the first trimester, the foetus is just growing into cell clusters. Thus, blood doesn’t play a vital role here. Once the organs are developed, the circulatory system is formed, blood formation comes into action, leading to increased iron requirements.

TrimacareTM 2 (pregnancy multivitamins for the second trimester), and TrimacareTM 3 (pregnancy multivitamins for the third trimester) contain 60 mg of Iron as Ferrous ascorbate. TrimacareTM uses Unique Time Release form which allows slow absorption of Iron and prevents gastrointestinal side effects.

TrimacareTM is good for the mother and good for the baby. It can be introduced at any stage of pregnancy. It is a one stop solution which supplements all the micronutrient needs of pregnancy. Hence, there is no need to take multiple pills every day for different nutrients. It is made with natural, plant-based ingredients thus it is safe and chemical-free.

TrimacareTM is recommended by leading doctors of India. This pregnancy supplement is available both online (Amazon1mgFlipkart) and offline at your nearest chemist.