HomePregnancyWhich Month to Start Iron and Calcium Tablets in Pregnancy?

Which Month to Start Iron and Calcium Tablets in Pregnancy?

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Pregnancy introduces a lot of physical and physiological changes in the body. But, it also brings forth a lot of changes to one’s diet. From strong aversions to food to mandatory prenatal vitamins, several ifs and buts are involved throughout the pregnancy.

Taking calcium and iron together is often a necessity during your pregnancy term, especially to support fetal growth and development at a steady rate. More than calcium, iron is considered a quintessential pregnancy supplement because it supports the baby’s oxygen needs in the placenta.

Given how confusing these situations can be, we will discuss more about the iron and calcium dose in pregnancy and why you should be taking them.

How Much Iron and Calcium do I need during Pregnancy?

The need for iron and calcium during pregnancy varies, especially depending on age. While the iron supplement dosage is 27 mg per day for a pregnant woman, the calcium supplementation varies.

If you are 19 and above, the calcium dosage should be 1000 mg per day. If you are less than 19 years, the dosage should be 1300 mg per day.

These are some of the standard dosages prescribed to every woman during their pregnancy, provided they don’t have any accessory complications with these supplements. Always consult your OBGYN and take the supplements as per their prescribed dosage.

Why do I need Iron and Calcium during Pregnancy?

Planning a pregnancy comes with several challenges. You have to focus on your diet and the kind of lifestyle you are leading and also monitor the growth of the fetus in the womb.

While many people might not realise the importance of prenatal vitamins and supplementation, they are crucial to supporting the life and well-being of both the mother and the baby.

Iron and calcium play a crucial role in fetal growth and prevent the risks of anemia and calcium-related issues during pregnancy.

If you are wondering why iron and calcium are mandatory during pregnancy, let us break them down for you.

Benefits of Iron Supplementation during Pregnancy

  • Taking iron supplements in pregnancy reduces the risks of anemia, specifically iron-deficient anemia. This can also prevent the risks of pre-term birth, infant mortality, low birth weight, etc.
  • Iron also supports and optimizes the immunity of the mother to protect them against infections and other risks during pregnancy.
  • Iron supports easy oxygen transportation to the baby via the placenta to ensure that the baby is growing safely inside the womb.
  • Iron also boosts the mother’s energy levels throughout the day instead of making them feel tired and low on energy all day.

Benefits of Calcium Supplementation during Pregnancy

  • Taking calcium supplements will prevent the risks of brittle bones and teeth during pregnancy.
  • Calcium supports muscle activity and blood circulation in the body to ensure the optimal well-being of the baby throughout the pregnancy term.
  • Calcium also triggers the nervous system for optimal communication from the brain to the remainder of the body.
  • Since the body cannot make calcium, it is necessary to get it from external sources.

Is Dietary Iron and Calcium Sources Enough During Pregnancy?

Since many women are not comfortable taking calcium and iron tablets for pregnancy, the most common counter question is, “Will I get enough iron and calcium from the food I am eating?”

The answer is yes and no.

For Iron

Technically, the food source makes all the difference, especially in the case of iron.

If you are vegetarian and only rely on plant sources to get your fix of iron, chances are that you won’t get enough supplementation during pregnancy.

That is a different take if you are a non-vegetarian person who eats meat and poultry. Meat and poultry contain heme iron, which is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream and distributed throughout the body to meet the daily iron demand. However, eating red meat every day might not be advised during pregnancy, so that stands out as a buffer in this case.

It is also ideal to discuss your options at length with your doctor. They will provide a comprehensive understanding of the situation and give you a better way to optimize the iron absorption from the food.

For example, for vegetarians, pairing your iron-rich food sources with a Vitamin C supplement can enhance iron absorption. Furthermore, if you are craving non-food items like dirt and ice, it is a sign of low iron levels in the body. Consult your OBGYN immediately about that.

Some of the best iron sources include:

  • Spinach
  • Liver and other organ meats
  • Shellfish (avoid eating raw during pregnancy)
  • Legumes
  • Red meat
  • Quinoa
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Tofu
  • Turkey
  • Broccoli

For Calcium

Calcium is a much easier mineral to source from your diet, even for vegetarians. There are multiple dietary sources of calcium, including milk, cheese, yogurt, etc.

However, the only thing you need to ensure is the side effects of taking iron and calcium together in pregnancy. They aren’t necessarily life-threatening but taking calcium with iron will prevent optimal iron absorption from the food source.

Some of the best calcium sources include:

  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Yogurt
  • Dark leafy green vegetables
  • Calcium-fortified cereal
  • Bread
  • Orange juice
  • Soy drinks

Always check the individual label of the product before purchasing any of the items for your calcium needs.

When Should I Start the Iron and Calcium Intake during pregnancy?

Before we discuss the correct timing of the supplementation in pregnancy, it is essential to keep one thing in mind – Avoid taking iron and calcium supplements together.

Calcium counterfeits iron absorption. So, if you are taking both the supplements together, the calcium will nullify the effect of the iron in the body. Instead, take a vitamin C supplement with iron to optimize its absorption in the body. Take the calcium at some other time in the day.

That said, both iron and calcium supplementation start early in the pregnancy as a pre-natal dietary change. Taking 27 mg of iron per day is considered ideal throughout the pregnancy, but the dosage might be increased in patients who need it more than the standard amount.

Also, iron and calcium supplementation generally start three months before conception if you are trying to get pregnant. But, if the pregnancy comes as a surprise for you, the supplements start immediately during the first trimester.

Discussing the timing, requirements, dosage, etc., with your healthcare provider, is always ideal before you start.

Conclusion

Iron and calcium are two vital elements during pregnancy. Not only do they support the mother’s health, but they are also responsible for optimal fetal growth and development too. If you are solely relying on dietary sources, we’d recommend consulting your doctor for a comprehensive analysis of the iron and calcium levels in the body. If it’s less, you might have to switch to supplements. 

FAQs

What are the side effects of iron and calcium supplements during pregnancy?

Iron and calcium supplements often introduce a few side effects, including constipation, diarrhea, vomiting, nausea, leg cramps, etc.

Do I need supplements?

Food sources don’t always fill the daily iron and calcium needs, especially during pregnancy. So, taking a supplement is often considered a safer choice.

What trimester should I take calcium?

Calcium supplementation should start from the first trimester itself as the baby starts developing. However, it is always best to discuss all the options with the doctor for a more comprehensive understanding.

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Somapika Dutta (B.Sc Physiology, Honours)
Somapikar holds Bachelors Degree in Physiology from University of Culcutta. She has 6+ years of experience writing in different niches, including health, tech and lifestyle. An animal enthusiast and a raging foodie, experiencing life - one day at a time.

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