Taking Iron Tablet during Pregnancy: When to Take, Side Effects & more

Is It Safe to Take Iron Tablets During Pregnancy?

Medically Reviewed By
Dr. Rima Sonpal (Gynecologist/Obstetrician)
View more Gynecologist/Obstetrician Our Panel of Experts

It is in your body that your baby will develop, so you need to be especially careful about what you put into it because it could impact the growth of your baby. It is not just about getting the right kind of nutrients but also the right amount of nutrients that you and your baby need. One vital nutrient for your developing baby is iron. Read on to know more about taking iron supplements during pregnancy.

Should You Take Iron Tablets While Pregnant?

The body requires iron to make haemoglobin, a protein in your red blood cells (RBC) that aids in bringing oxygen to the organs and tissues for both you and your child. As you are supporting the growth of your baby, your body will automatically produce more blood; however, to do this, your body will require additional iron. If your diet doesn’t provide you with enough iron to produce enough blood for two, you are most likely going to be asked by your healthcare provider to take some additional iron supplements to get that extra blood flowing.

How Much Iron Is Required During Pregnancy?

The following table is a general requirement for iron supplements that women are advised to take: 

Dosage Minimum60 mg
Frequency Once, daily
Duration After the first trimester

Source: http://www.who.int/elena/titles/guidance_summaries/daily_iron_pregnancy/en/

When Does Doctor Recommend Iron Tablets in Pregnancy?

The prenatal vitamins that women are advised to take during pregnancy contain the required amount of iron in them. Apart from this, it is best to gain the required amount of iron through a balanced diet that is rich in the element. There are times, however, when your doctor may inform you that you need to take an additional amount. The reasons for this will be different for each woman, but it is most commonly found that women who live in places where anaemia is prevalent will undoubtedly require additional iron supplements.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may require more iron supplements than other women as your diet may not be able to provide you enough on a daily basis. Iron tablets are usually recommended after the 3rd month of pregnancy. Always inform your doctor if this is the case so that your doctor can perform regular checks on your iron and haemoglobin levels during your routine check-ups and can tell you if you need iron tablets in pregnancy, and when to start.

Which Is the Best Time to Take Iron Tablets During Pregnancy?

If you have been asked to consume supplements, your doctor will inform you about how to take an iron tablet during pregnancy. Most doctors only recommend iron tablets after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. It is also difficult to digest in early pregnancy and is not required in the first trimester.

You will be advised to consume the iron supplements at least one or two hours before or after your meal. It’s best to avoid taking it with tea, coffee or even milk as this can reduce the effects of the tablets. Instead, they should be taken with plain water.

Side-Effects of Consuming Iron Tablets

While iron is a much-needed element for pregnant women, too much of it can cause some unpleasant side-effects. These are explained below:

1. Dark Urine and Stool

A lot of women who take iron supplements find that their urine becomes darker. Some also notice a darkening of their stools, either looking dark green or black. Both of these things are normal, and everything should go back to normal once you stop taking the supplements.

2. Discomfort in the Gastrointestinal Tract

You may experience some gastrointestinal irritation such as cramping or stomach aches. Take the supplement after a meal to avoid this. 

3. Constipation

A lot of women who take iron supplements suffer from constipation. If you are experiencing this, add more fibre and water to your diet.

4. Nausea and Vomiting

Taking iron supplements often causes vomiting and nausea as it generally makes morning sickness worse. Take your supplements after meals to ease discomfort and avoid acidity. If you get a fever as well, contact your doctor.

5. Iron May Not Get Absorbed in the Body

You may be taking your iron supplements every day, without fail – but the iron may not be getting absorbed in the body efficiently. Consuming certain foods along with your iron supplements can prevent the absorption of the mineral properly. These foods include whole grains, dairy, coffee, milk, and tea. To beat this problem, it’s best to consume iron supplements along with foods rich in vitamin C, as they are known to aid the absorption of iron in the bloodstream.

There is a serious misconception that states that iron tablets during pregnancy make the baby dark. This is only an old wives’ tale, as the only thing that can impact your baby’s complexion is genetics.

Things to Remember

Here are a few things you should keep in mind when taking iron supplements:

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • If you experience any unpleasant side-effect, taking the supplement after meals may be better than taking it on an empty stomach.
  • If the side-effects are still present, change the dosage of iron
  • Ask your doctor if it is okay for you to take a stool softener if you really need it.

Iron-Rich Foods for Pregnant Women

A diet rich in iron is as important as consuming iron supplements during pregnancy. The following are foods rich in the element:

Iron Rich Foods for Pregnant Women

During pregnancy, it is best to always consult with your doctor regarding any supplements or medications that you may want to take, even if they are herbal or generally said to be good for you. This is because each woman will have different requirements based on her body.

Resources and References: WebMD

Also Read: Supplements during Pregnancy

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