The importance of iron during pregnancy

During your first prenatal appointment, your doctor will probably talk about dietary supplements or iron tablets because it is important.

It is much healthier for your body to absorb iron from food and it will help you avoid constipation. Why is iron so important during pregnancy? What foods are rich in iron?


Iron builds hemoglobin, the component of red blood cells that carries oxygen all around the body. If the blood lacks red cells (hemodilution), it is poorer in iron, poorer in oxygen and, of course, poorer in hemoglobin. That’s what we call anemia.


Anemia results in general fatigue, paleness, decreased appetite and weight loss. It generally affects the mood, causing irritability and a lack of interest in the outside world.

Because of menstrual bleeding, women need more iron than men and are more likely to suffer from anemia.


During pregnancy, the increase in blood plasma (the liquid component of blood) causes a normal drop in hemoglobin. This decrease begins at the 8th week of pregnancy and stabilizes between the 16th and the 22nd week. A pregnant woman should have a hemoglobin rate above 115g /L around the 22nd week. A rate under 100 g/L shows anemia. The higher the hemoglobin rate, the more in shape a woman will feel after giving birth.

Recommended Dose
  • Adult woman: 14 mg/day
  • Pregnant and breastfeeding: 30 mg/day
Dietary iron

Cereals (100g portion or 1/2 cup)


11,8 mg

Whole millet 

6,8 mg

Whole bulgur

6,8 mg


6 mg


6 mg

Oats (flour or flakes)

4,6 mg


3 mg


3,1 mg

Whole wheat (flakes or flour) 

3,1 mg

Whole rice

1,6 mg

White rice

0,4 mg

Meat and poultry (3-ounce serving)

  Be careful! The liver is a natural filter; it can contain unwanted elements, depending on the diet of the animal from which it comes. Eat it in moderation. Organic liver is the best choice.

Horsemeat also contains a lot of iron. You can buy horse in sausages, steaks or minced.

 Pork liver*

18 mg

 Veal liver*

13 mg

 Chicken liver*

9 mg

 Beef liver*

7.5 mg

 Beef kidney

7 mg


2,5 mg


2,2 mg


1,4 mg


Fish (½ cup)

It is recommended to eat fish at least once a week. In addition to being nutritious, it contains a lot of omega-3 to help develop your baby’s brain.

  Carefully choose the size of the fish you eat. The bigger it is, the more it will contain mercury. 


18 mg


7 mg


6 mg


4,7 mg


2,9 mg


1,3 mg


5,5 mg


3 mg

Legumes (50 g or 1 cup)

We should all eat at least 5 servings of legumes per week. 

Lima beans

5,9 mg


4,2 mg


3,5 mg

Whole lentils

3,4 mg

Vegetables (100 g or 1 cup)


6,8 mg

Swiss chard

4,2 mg

Caned sauerkraut

3,7 mg


3,3 mg


3,2 mg

Beet leaves

2,9 mg

Green peas

2,7 mg

* Please note that the spinach iron is not easily assimilated.

** The beet leaves are good to the taste and are very rich in iron.

*** Parsley relieves the breasts during breastfeeding. Also, a pregnant woman should use parsley everywhere. She can use it dried or fresh, as iron does not evaporate.

Fruits (100 g or 1 cup)

Dried apricots*

6,4 mg


2,2 mg

Dried peaches

6,9 mg

Prune juice

3,2 mg


2,5 mg


3,6 mg

* It is preferable to choose organic dried fruits that are much lower in fat.

Seeds and nuts (125 mg or ½ cup)

Pumpkin seeds

10,9 mg

Sunflower seeds

5,1 mg


2,8 mg


6,2 mg


2,7 mg

Brazil nuts

2,5 mg



Seaweed and other (100 mg or 1 cup)

Seaweed is an EXCELLENT source of iron. You can add some to your recipes or replace your table salt by Algosel. Also, seaweed nourishes the thyroid gland but be careful, you should not eat seaweed if you are taking thyroid medication.


100 mg


13 mg


12 mg


5 mg


29 mg

Nori (sushi)

12 mg


6,3 mg


14 mg

To ensure your daily intake...
  • Eat an ingredient very rich in iron once a week (more than 7 mg)
  • In every meal, eat a vegetable or a fruit rich in vitamin C, essential to absorb iron (orange, tomato, lemon)
  • Always keep a little bag of dried fruits, nuts and seeds for snacking
  • Replace sugar by molasses in recipes (at least half and half)
  • Use prune juice often in juice mixes (half prune juice + half orange or apple juice) 
  • Sprinkle wheat germ on desserts
  • Sprinkle parsley on meat and vegetables
  • Avoid tea. It reduces the amount of iron absorbed. Replace it with raspberry tea. 

If you want to take a supplement, make sure that this supplement is made of “iron citrate”. It is much easier to assimilate.

Karine Bergeron

Karine Bergeron is a doula who studied nursing and is currently completing additional training in prenatal care. As mother to little Laurence, volunteer for L’entraide maternelle, breastfeeding godmother and prenatal class teacher, it’s with joy that she dispenses her wisdom for Bergeron is passionate about prenatal care and ready to share all her knowledge to help you enjoy life’s greatest gift: becoming parents. To find out more or ask questions, go to and look for her in the “Équipe” section.

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