Chapter 4: Helping women stay healthy
Eat these 5 important vitamins and minerals every day
Pregnant and breastfeeding women need more of five vitamins and minerals —
iron, folic acid, calcium, iodine, and vitamin A — than other people do. Pregnant
women should try to get these vitamins and minerals every day because the baby
needs them to grow and be healthy. Every pregnant woman needs enough for the
baby and for herself.
Iron helps make blood healthy and prevents anemia (weak blood, see page 116).
A pregnant woman needs a lot of iron to have enough energy, to prevent too
much bleeding at the birth, and to make sure that the growing baby can form
healthy blood and store iron for the first few months after birth.
These foods contain a lot of iron:
• meat (especially liver, kidney, and
other organ meats)
• poultry (birds)
• grasshoppers, crickets, and termites
• fish, clams, and oysters
• beans, peas, and lentils
• sunflower, pumpkin, and squash seeds
• dark green leafy vegetables
• hard squash
• blackstrap molasses
Other ways to get more iron:
• Eat iron foods with citrus fruits or tomatoes. The vitamin C in these foods
helps a woman absorb iron into her system.
• Cook food in iron pots or add a clean piece of iron — like an iron nail —
to the cooking pot. Only use a nail that you know is made of pure iron,
not a mix of metals.
• Put a clean piece of pure iron, like an iron nail, in a
little lemon juice for a few hours. Drink the juice
mixed with clean water.
It can be difficult for a pregnant woman to get enough
iron, even if she eats iron-rich foods every day. If possible,
she should also take iron pills or iron syrup. These
medicines may be called ferrous sulfate, ferrous gluconate,
ferrous fumerate, or other names.
In many places health centers will give iron pills to
pregnant women. Sometimes iron pills are combined with folic acid. The iron pills
may make it hard for the woman to pass stool (constipation), and her stool may
turn black. These problems should get better in a few days. (See page 76.)
A Book for Midwives (2010)