What you need to know about iron and pregnancy

Pregnant women need more iron than non-pregnant women of their age. Read on to find out what you need to know if you are pregnant or planning on getting pregnant.

Why you need increased iron during pregnancy

Your body uses iron to make haemoglobin, which your red blood cells use to transport oxygen around your body. When you are pregnant, you need additional iron as your blood has the extra job of supplying oxygen to the growing foetus in your womb.1

How much iron do you need when pregnant?

Nutritionists recommend that pregnant women aim for 27mg of iron a day. That’s somewhat more than the 18mg recommended dietary intake for non-pregnant women aged 19 to 50.2
However, too much iron during pregnancy can be dangerous, so it's important to get it right and follow your doctor's advice on when to have your iron levels tested.

What foods are rich in iron?

Your healthcare team may advise you to take a nutritional supplement that contains iron. It’s also important to eat iron-rich foods. For example:3,4

  • 100g of beef contains 3.5mg of iron
  • 100g of tofu contains 3.1mg of iron
  • 100g of lamb contains 2.5mg of iron
  • 100g of salmon contains 1.3mg of iron
  • 100g of tinned tuna contains 1.1mg of iron
  • 30g of iron-fortified breakfast cereal contains 3.2-4.2mg of iron
  • 1 cup of green lentils or kidney beans contains 3mg of iron
  • 1 cup of chickpeas has 2.7mg of iron
  • 1 cup of cooked wholemeal pasta contains 2.3gmg of iron

You can help your body absorb iron by eating plenty of food with high vitamin C content, such as citrus fruits and red capsicum. Meat, chicken and fish can also help increase the amount of iron you absorb from plant-based foods if you eat them together. In addition, your body absorbs food from animals (haem iron) four or five times more easily than iron from plant sources.1

Tea and coffee can reduce iron absorption, so it’s best to avoid these at mealtimes. Also, avoid taking supplements that contain calcium with your iron-rich meals.1

What happens if you don’t have enough iron?

Your iron stores may become depleted if have inadequate iron intake, your body does not absorb enough iron or you lose iron through blood loss. This can lead to symptoms such as tiredness and fatigue. Depleted iron stores may lead to iron deficiency anaemia, which has been associated with an increased risk of low birth weight and pre-term birth.5

Follow your doctor’s advice

Your health team will check your iron levels at various stages during your pregnancy.5 Follow their advice closely if they raise any concerns. In addition, they will be happy to answer your questions and reassure you if you have any concerns.

Remember to choose Ferro-grad C® if your doctor diagnoses iron deficiency and recommends that you take a therapeutic oral iron supplement.


  1. Gastroenterological Society of Australia (GESA). October 2015
  2. NHRC. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. 2014
  3. Dietitians Australia. Nourishing Nutrients, Anaemia: my doctor says I need more iron.
  4. Nutrition Australia. Iron Fact Sheet (2013).
  5. Pasricha SS et al. Med J Aust 2010;193:525-532.

FGC-2021-0169. February 2022