According to a study published recently in the European Journal of Endocrinology, one third of pregnant women are iron deficient.

Though this is a common problem for the general population, it is especially concerning for pregnant women who need three times the daily requirement to sufficiently nourish a baby and grow a placenta.

This study specifically looked at the effect of low iron on thyroid function. The thyroid hormone is especially important for brain development during the first trimester when babies have not yet developed a thyroid gland. Women with low iron levels in pregnancy are more at risk for thyroid disease, preterm labor and miscarriage. Low iron can also cause a host of other problems, including low energy and mood issues.

Iron levels can be assessed by simple blood tests and can be monitored by care providers throughout pregnancy. While iron supplements, even prescription doses, may be necessary - women can also focus on adding iron to their diets to prevent and treat this issue.

Great natural sources of iron include:
  • spinach
  • kale
  • collard greens
  • asparagus
  • dark green lettuce
  • red meat and organ meat
  • the skin of a baked potato (choose organic when possible since potatoes are high in pesticides)
  • oatmeal
  • black-strap molasses
  • beans
  • nuts
  • pumpkin seeds and some other seeds
  • squash
Pregnant women who become anemic can also discuss the use of chlorophyll, the green pigment found in plants closes resembles hemoglobin and can help build blood count. It can be taken in capsule or liquid form.

Vitamin C containing foods -- such as oranges, melons, strawberries and tomatoes - can also help maximize the absorption of iron and taking Vitamin C in capsule form may be needed if you are not consuming enough of these foods.

It's also important to know that foods like soy, dairy and coffee can block the body from absorbing iron so be cautious of these foods if your iron levels are low.

Talk with your doctor or midwife about ways that you can prevent and treat iron deficiency for a healthier pregnancy and postpartum period.