Iron: an essential nutrient you need more of in each trimester

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors. They do not not reflect the opinions or views of Ovia Health.

The world of prenatal supplements has not changed much in the last 40 years, even though our dietary habits have evolved, and we now have a much deeper understanding of how some key nutrients can have a life-long effect in the health of your baby.

Getting the right dosage of iron is paramount at every step of your pregnancy. In fact, when you’re pregnant, you need twice the amount of iron you required before conceiving. And yet, close to 50% of pregnant women don’t get enough iron.

Iron is a cornerstone of health during pregnancy and beyond. Your body uses iron to make extra blood (hemoglobin) for you and your baby during pregnancy. Iron also helps move oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body — and especially to your baby’s brain. Having low iron has been shown to increase the risk of autism, and this is only one of the reasons why getting enough iron throughout your entire pregnancy is so important.

Something that most people don’t know is that your body can actually store iron reserves in organs such as the liver and spleen. But if you are one of the 25% of women whose iron levels are low at the start of your pregnancy, your body will prioritize the needs of your baby over yours, and it will take iron from other systems such as your blood and muscle tissue. This can lead to anemia for you, and a potential negative impact in your baby’s healthy development.

The challenge is to get adequate quantities at each stage, because the amount needed is different for each trimester. Most prenatals contain iron, but at levels much lower than what is needed during pregnancy, and the levels are not tailored to changing the needs of each stage.

During the first trimester the most critical brain and physical development occurs. The quality and quantity of the nutrients that you get in at this stage is absolutely essential to properly nourish all the cellular development that is happening rapidly: the major structures of the body form in the first trimester, and the blueprint for a healthy human is shaped in profound, long-lasting ways. In this trimester, iron plays a crucial role in your baby’s brain development, and it’s essential to help your body produce the additional blood that will circulate throughout your body.

In the second trimester, your baby will finalize the development of all its organs and systems and will begin growing in length and weight. The nervous system is starting to function, allowing your baby to move, hear sounds and swallow. The reproductive organs and genitalia are fully developed. The skin goes from transparent to opaque, and it starts to get its final texture. In the second trimester the iron needs go up to fuel this growth, and that’s why our healthynest prenatal supplement levels are increased, to make sure you and your baby are getting enough to stay and grow healthy.

In the last trimester, all major development is finished and your baby will start to gain weight very quickly: up to half a pound per week by the end of your pregnancy.

In this last stretch of pregnancy, iron continues to be a crucial nutrient, and deficiencies in this trimester can actually lead to lower neurological function. This is another key moment where you want to make sure you provide all you need, not only to your baby, but for yourself: in the last trimester we can and should boost the iron reserves that we have in our body to prepare for the loss of blood that naturally happens during delivery, allowing you to bounce back faster and feel stronger after.

Because of the realities of the third trimester, where digestive discomfort is common, getting all the nutrients you need from diet alone can become more challenging. Constipation, for example, is not something you want… That’s why the iron we have chosen for all our trimesters is non constipating.

At healthynest we are wholeheartedly committed to providing the highest possible quality and quantity of nutrients at the right time. Our prenatal addresses the very first environment for baby, developed to provide the optimal start for your baby based on the newest research. As such the trimester staged healthynest prenatal is the most researched and comprehensive prenatal vitamin available, designed by the Chief Medical Officer of the Neurological Health Foundation. It is the culmination of learnings from 350 research studies and an analysis of 250 prenatals on the market.

There is one catch, though, but we believe it’s a minor one. The daily dose of the healthynest prenatal is seven capsules, for a very simple reason: because we don’t want to compromise. While this means taking a handful of vitamins, we have condensed down the almost 30 separate items that were previously not found in one formulation. We include all of the essential vitamins, all of the essential minerals (including iron, of course!) and the Omega-3 fatty acids that women need in order to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby, and that does require taking a few more pills than your standard prenatal. Doing the right thing isn’t always easy, but we know it’s worth it…

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  • Daily oral iron supplementation during pregnancy. A meta-analysis of 44 trials, involving 43,274 women compared the effects of daily oral supplements containing iron versus no iron or placebo. The Cochrane Library – Peña-Rosas JP, De-Regil LM, Garcia-Casal MN, Dowswell T. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015 Jul 22
  • National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Neural tube defects and maternal intake of micronutrients related to one-carbon metabolism or antioxidant activity. Chandler AL, Hobbs CA, Mosley BS, Berry RJ, Canfield MA, Qi YP, Siega-Riz AM, Shaw GM; Birth Defects Res A Clin Mol Teratol. 2012 Nov;94(11):864-74. doi: 10.1002/bdra.23068. Epub 2012 Aug 29.
  • Iron supplementation during pregnancy, anemia, and birth weight: a randomized controlled trial. Cogswell, Mary E., et al. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 78.4 (2003): 773-781.
  • Anaemia during pregnancy as a risk factor for iron-deficiency anaemia in infancy: a case-control study. Kilbride, Julia, et al. International Journal of Epidemiology 28.3 (1999): 461-468.
  • Maternal intake of supplemental iron and risk of autism spectrum disorder. Schmidt RJ, Tancredi DJ, Krakowiak P, Hansen RL, Ozonoff S. Am J Epidemiol. 2014 Nov 1; 180(9):890-900.
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