Medical Q&As

Pregnancy - iron supplements?

I am just wondering at what stage of pregnancy are you supposed to start taking iron tablets?

It is generally recommended that a woman defer taking iron supplements during pregnancy until she is at least twelve weeks pregnant. This deferral is simply part of the cautious policy of not taking any medication during the crucial first twelve weeks just in case it might be harmful to the developing foetus. The iron is then taken on a daily basis from the twelfth week up to the time of delivery and some doctors recommend that it should be taken for up to six weeks after delivery. Iron supplements are recommended because the expectant mother is at risk of becoming increasingly anaemic as pregnancy progresses. Anaemia can affect the motherís energy and stamina and if the anaemia were severe it could increase the risk of complications in the later stages of pregnancy, including the delivery and its immediate aftermath. The expectant mother is at particular risk of developing anaemia because the developing foetus has first demand on the iron that is available, which means that the mother may have to draw on her own iron stores in order to maintain an adequate level of iron in her blood. Several studies have shown that a significant number of non-pregnant women have low iron levels. Therefore if such a woman becomes pregnant it is predictable that her iron levels will fall even further over the subsequent months of pregnancy. Hence the need for iron supplements.