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Iron For Fertility

When you’re pregnant, your iron requirements are much greater than at any other stage in your life. In fact, iron requirements will increase during pregnancy, from 18mg/day before pregnancy to 27mg/day during pregnancy. The main reason for this is that your growing foetus needs to build up its own iron reserves and it does this by taking the iron from your body. It is therefore important to eat a variety of foods that are rich in iron, calcium, and folic acid when you are expecting. In some cases, an additional iron supplement may be required. Ask your doctor about this.

Role of iron in fertility

Iron plays an important role in the body when it comes to fertility. One of the main roles of iron is to help our red blood cells transport oxygen to all parts of the body. Iron is also vital in specific processes within the cells that produce energy for our body. It is for this reason that one of the first symptoms of low body iron stores is tiredness and fatigue.

Iron-rich foods

There are two types of iron:

  1. Haem Iron This type of iron is found in animal-based foods, like red meat, poultry and fish. Haem iron is easily absorbed by the body.
  2. Non-Haem Iron This type of iron is found in plant-based foods like cereals, vegetables and legumes. In contrast to haem iron, our body doesn’t absorb non-haem iron as easily. However, because it is present in the diet in much larger quantities than is haem iron, it is an important source of this mineral. We generally obtain around 65% of our iron requirements from non-haem iron.

Iron Counter:
Haem iron foods

  • 90g lamb liver – 8.6mg of iron
    Liver is high in iron, but it is not recommended while you are pregnant. This is because it is also very rich in vitamin A and too much vitamin A can be harmful to a growing foetus.
  • 6 oysters – 3.5mg of iron
  • 100g lean beef – 2.2mg of iron
  • 120g fish (non specified type) – 1.1mg of iron
  • 100g chicken breast – 0.7mg of iron

Non-haem iron foods

  • 30g bran flakes – 5.4mg of iron
  • 1/2 cup canned chickpeas – 1.6mg of iron
  • 1/2 cup spinach – 0.6mg of iron
  • 10 Macadamia nuts – 0.4mg of iron

To help your body absorb more of the iron from your diet, try combining foods or drinks that are rich in vitamin C with foods that are rich in non-haem iron. Examples of foods and drinks that are rich in vitamin C include oranges, orange juice, strawberries, kiwi fruit, capsicum and tomatoes.

Iron at different stages in life

As the body grows (both in childhood and during pregnancy) it requires increasing amounts of iron to produce blood and make muscle tissue. Iron requirements:

  • Greatest during growth phases
  • Higher in menstruating women because of monthly blood losses

Iron calculator

To find out how much iron you have on a typical day, use our Iron Calculator.


This fact sheet contains general information and is not intended as a substitute for medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional for specific advice for your personal situation.

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