Valerie Gommon Midwife’s Blog

Archive for the ‘iron in pregnancy’ Category

I have just “appeared” on 3 Counties Radio to discuss a local news item.  A Sainsbury’s employee refused to sell local woman, Janet Lehain, unpasteuried cheddar because she was pregnant!

Whilst applauding the employee for pointing out the recommendation that pregnant women do not consume unpasteurised products I have to say that I believe they overstepped the mark by refusing to sell her the cheese!  The woman could have been buying the cheese for her husband and whatever happened to freedom of choice? 

I am a firm believer in Informed Choice, we are very cautious where pregnancy is concerned because although the risks are very low there could be serious implications for the baby SHOULD the mother contract food poisoning.

The Department of Health guidance in early pregnancy is to be extra careful with hygiene; food poisoning is bad news for your baby. They suggest that women don’t eat any unpasteurised foods – most food is pasteurised, but some speciality milks, cheeses/diary are not.

The recommendation is to avoid moulded or veined cheeses and pate/salami. Eggs should be well cooked not runny. Fruit and vegetables should be washed prior to eating. It is suggested that you don’t eat swordfish or marlin and limit the consumption of “oily” fish to twice weekly. Sea food should be cooked not raw. Liver is not recommended for pregnant women.

Whilst pregnant the current recommendation is not to drink alcohol at all, and it is better to limit the amount of caffeine you take (tea, coffee, cola and fizzy drinks), and obviously it would be wise to stop smoking and avoid any “recreational” drugs prior to getting pregnant.

We are still evaluating the evidence regarding eating peanuts in pregnancy – the best current advice is that if you have nut allergies in the family it may well be best to avoid eating nuts in pregnancy; it there are no nut allergies then use your own instinct and judgement as to whether you feel safe to eat nuts (bearing in mind they are a good source of protein, particularly if you are vegetarian or vegan).

Having made a huge list of foods to avoid, you are encouraged to eat plenty of fruit and vegetables (aim for at least five a day), plenty of protein (at every meal if you possibly can) and plenty of iron rich foods (red meat, pulses, green vegetables).

You can read articles I have written at: and!.pdf or

In the past pregnant women were routinely prescribed an iron supplement; it is now recognised that many women do not require an iron supplement and that the best way to get iron is through a healthy diet.  Your midwife will offer you a blood test to check your iron stores during your pregnancy and it is actually normal for your haemoglobin (or iron) level to fall because you will have an increased amount of blood circulating as you grow bigger through the pregnancy and this causes a dilution of the haemoglobin levels.  It is also true that the growing baby will take what it needs and deplete you!  This said, it is obviously important to eat well, and to include iron rich foods in your diet to enable you to be in the best possible health to grow the baby, to give birth and to feed the baby afterwards.  I would also recommend that you consider increasing the amount of protein in your diet, try to eat protein several times a day.

If you are taking iron supplements and find that they don’t agree with you (they often cause either constipation or diarrhoea) do speak to your midwife or doctor as it is often possible to change to a different medication.  It is definitely better to get iron from your diet if you possibly can and although iron supplements can be useful for some women.

Foods rich in iron include:

– herbal tonic spa tone/floradix (consult pharmacist)
– red meat, steak and corned beef
– Legumes – lentils and butterbeans, harricot beans (baked beans) peas/beans)
– fish – salmon, kippers, pilchards, sardines
– cream and cottage cheese
– wholegrains – wheatgerm and oats and millet, bread and pasta, chapattis, oak cakes
– dried apricots, dates and figs, raisins, prunes, currents
– dark green leafy vegetables, cabbage, broccoli, spinach, sprouts, cooked nettle tops, dandelion leaves
– watercress and beansprouts
– dried peaches and prunes
– beetroot
– yeast/vecon extract
– soya flour
– breakfast cereals
– cane molasses (can stain teeth)
– chives/spring onions
– parsley
– nuts – especially almonds
– egg yolks
– Kelp/seaweed – use dried and add to stir fry, salads, or cook with rice
– Spiralina (health food shop – take advice
– fresh fruit, redcurrants, blackberries, loganberries, raspberries, cranberries

Limit use of dried fruits if have tendency to thrush.

NB Vitamin C taken at the same time (e.g. glass of orange juice will aid absorption, whilst bran, coffee and tea decrease absorption)
Vitamin C is found in: Fruit and vegetables, especially kiwi, oranges, rosehips, potatoes, broccoli, sprouts and cauliflower
Cooking – always try to steam vegetables and use vegetable water for soups, sauces or hot savoury drinks. Use cast iron pots and pans if you have any.