Thousands of UK women could be putting the health of their unborn baby at risk through getting pregnant while being deficient in iron.
With 40% of pregnancies in the UK unplanned and research showing that over a quarter (27%) of women between the ages of 19-64 have iron levels below the LRNI (Lower Reference Nutrient Intake), women are unexpectedly at risk of entering pregnancy with low iron stores, potentially damaging the health of both mother and baby.
According to nutrition expert Dr Emma Derbyshire, we can boost our iron levels by eating more iron rich foods such as red meat. The research reveals that the mean daily iron intakes for women aged between 19 to 64 years is 9.3 mg per day, which means iron intakes are 5-6mg short of daily requirements. Research also revealed that there has been a sizeable 10 g drop in women’s red meat intake over the last ten years, with recent intakes of red meat and processed meat for women aged 19-64 years recorded as 47g per day.
As well as contributing to the normal function of the immune system and reducing tiredness, a diet rich in iron helps build up your stores for pregnancy, as well as contributing to normal cognitive development of children.
“For women, nutrients such as iron and zinc are crucial, both in preparing for conception and throughout pregnancy,” Dr Emma Derbyshire explains.
“Without them, the consequences could be serious, potentially affecting the health of both mother and baby. The solution, however, could be as simple as changing your diet.”
Suffering from iron deficiency during pregnancy could put you at risk of a premature birth and can have a negative effect on intelligence and behavioural development in infants, so it is no surprise that women need body iron reserves of ≥ 500mg at conception just to have an adequate iron status during pregnancy.
More iron is likely to enter your system when consuming lean red meat, such as beef, as opposed to alternative food sources, making it a great fridge essential when preparing for pregnancy.