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Iron Supplements In Pregnancy Reduce Risk of Low Birth Weight Babies

Alison Wood | 2, July 2013


Underweight newborns face a lot of health risks from the start. Nearly all babies born below what is considered a healthy baby weight are kept in neonatal intensive care for observation for the first 24 hours of life, if not more. Some common complications of low-birth weight in newborns are:

  • low oxygen levels at birth
  • inability to maintain body temperature
  • difficulty feeding
  • difficulty gaining weight
  • infection
  • breathing problems
  • neurologic problems
  • gastrointestinal
  • sudden infant death syndrome

However, there is some good news. New studies are saying that women who consume iron during pregnancy may be giving their child an edge against low birth weight.

Researchers from Harvard University compared and studied reports dating from 1961-2012 concerning the issue of anemia and low-birth rates. Their findings were encouraging for the mom who is dedicated to eating healthy and routinely takes her prenatal vitamins as well as any prescribed iron supplements. The research showed that the risk or a low birth rate or anemia was lower with each 10-miligram increase in daily iron consumption.

The study above included information about 28 different trials which involved 17, 1793 women and 44 cohort studies that researched 1,851,682 women.

In an article published online in BMJ, the authors of the above study were recorded as stating this:
"Daily prenatal use of iron substantially improved birth weight in a linear dose-response fashion, probably leading to a reduction in risk of low birth weight. An improvement in prenatal mean hemoglobin concentration linearly increased birth weight."

In these studies, women that took iron supplements throughout pregnancy decreased their risk for iron-related anemia by 50 percent. They also decreased their chances for delivering a low birth weight baby by 19 percent.

Throughout pregnancy your obstetrician will keep a record of your hemoglobin numbers. If your hemoglobin begins to drop, your doctor and nurse will recommend you to begin consuming more iron rich foods. Some of these iron-packed foods are listed below:

  • Red meat
  • Egg yolks
  • Dark, leafy greens
  • Dried fruit
  • Iron-enriched cereals and grains
  • Mollusks
  • Turkey or chicken giblets
  • Beans, lentils, chick peas and soybeans
  • Liver
  • Artichokes

To aid your body in absorbing the iron from these foods, eat some citrus food on the side or drink a glass of orange juice. Vitamin-C rich foods help your body absorb iron more efficiently.

If you are still not consuming enough iron by eating the foods listed above, your obstetrician will most likely prescribe you some iron supplements. Avoid taking these with milk as calcium can fight against absorbing the iron. Drink a citrus drink instead. Also, keep the liquids coming as well as fiber. Iron supplements can lead to constipation throughout pregnancy.

Need a few recipes to jump-start your iron-rich diet? Try these!

Broccoli and Pasta Salad


For dressing:
1/2 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/3 cup nonfat plain yogurt
1/4 cup reduced-fat sour cream
3 tablespoons rice vinegar or white-wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons dried minced onion or dried chopped chives
1 1/4 teaspoons dried tarragon or dill
1/2 teaspoon onion salt or celery salt
White pepper to taste

For salad:
3 cups cooked whole-wheat fusilli or similar pasta (about 6 ounces dry)
4 cups chopped broccoli florets (about 1 1/2 large heads)
1 1/2 cups diced ham (8 ounces), preferably reduced-sodium
1 large red or yellow bell pepper (or a combination), diced
1/4 cup diced red onion, plus slices for garnish
1/3 cup raisins
Freshly ground pepper to taste

For dressing, combine mayonnaise, yogurt, sour cream, vinegar, mustard, honey, onion (or chives), tarragon (or dill) and onion salt (or celery salt) in a medium-sized bowl until blended. Add white pepper. Set aside.
For salad, add pasta, broccoli, ham, bell pepper, diced onion and raisins in a large bowl. Toss pasta mixture with dressing until thoroughly combined. Chill for at least 30 minutes in refrigerator before serving.

Iron-rich Tropical Smoothie

ripe mango, peeled and pitted
2 large ripe bananas, peeled
3 cups kale
1 cup fresh, Italian parsley (or use curly parsley)
8 ounces of filtered water

Add water to blender. Place fruit on top and blend until smooth. Then add kale and parsley. Smooth until blended. Freeze and enjoy!

Source: British Medical Journal

Alison Wood is a stay-at-home mom of six and freelance writer and blogger. She enjoys raising her six children and desires to share her experiences to help other mothers.

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