Pregnancy + Parenthood

Why Is Iron Important During Pregnancy?

5 min read
Pregnant bump in front of a yellow background.
Pregnant bump in front of a yellow background.

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If you’re pregnant, and even if you aren’t, iron is a nutrient to look out for. It’s found in leafy greens, organ meats, and beans (more on that later), and is important for red blood cell formation and oxygen transport.*

Iron is especially vital during pregnancy. Based on the latest data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), pregnant people are only getting about 50% of the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for iron from what they eat—leaving about a 50% gap in intake.* (1)

Given this substantial gap, dietary supplements are here to save the (nutritional) day. Let’s talk about why iron matters—and how you can get it from food plus our Prenatal Multivitamin.

Why Do Pregnant Women Need Iron?

Your body’s iron needs are higher during pregnancy because the blood volume produced is nearly double that of what it is when you’re not pregnant. (2) Isn’t that wild? Vampires love her! Yet another your-body-is-amazing-during-pregnancy fact to add to the list.

Having high enough iron stores is important for not only your health during pregnancy, but also, the health of your pregnancy. Because iron contributes to red blood cell formation, hitting daily iron needs is critical during pregnancy to help supply the growing baby and placenta with enough oxygen.*

How Much Iron Is Needed During Pregnancy?

The recommended dietary allowance for Iron in pregnancy is 27 mg. Compare that to 18 mg pre-pregnancy. (3)

Iron becomes a star player just days into embryo development. (4) It’s also especially important during the second trimester (weeks 13 through 28), and the third — about 30% of pregnant people don’t get enough iron by the third trimester. (3) Safe to say it’s an essential nutrient the whole way through.

How to Get Enough Iron During Pregnancy

As mentioned before, there are plenty of iron-rich foods to add to your grocery list, including leafy greens, red meat, and legumes. Some particularly good sources of iron include:
• Leafy vegetables (like spinach)
• Organ meats (like liver, heart, etc.)
• Lentils
• Pumpkin seeds
• Kidney beans

The thing is, women between ages 20 to 40 are only getting approximately 70% of their recommended iron from food. (5) In pregnancy, when the recommended allowance is significantly higher, that 30% gap rises to 50%. (1) That means that pregnant women are only getting from their diets about half the iron they need.

So, if you’re not into the idea of downing a variety of organ meats during your pregnancy to keep up with recommended levels — and we wouldn’t blame you — iron supplementation can offer a reliable alternative. Our Essential Prenatal Multivitamin contains 18 mg of iron per serving. By capping the iron at pre-pregnancy levels, our prenatal multivitamin has you covered while you’re trying- to-conceive, and all the way through pregnancy. When needs are higher in pregnancy, the 18 mg can help bridge the gap from food.*

Our Essential Prenatal also uses a vegan source of iron. If you’re vegan, it’s worth digging into your supplement sourcing — not all ingredients are equal in this regard. We want to support any and all food preferences, and also recognize that vegans are more likely to have lower iron levels. (3) Thus, voilà, vegan iron!

Ritual’s Essential Prenatal also contains folate and vitamin B12, two nutrients that work alongside iron in contributing to red blood cell formation.*

Why Do Some Prenatals Not Include Iron?

Many prenatal vitamins on the market leave iron out because it’s known to cause stomach discomfort. Which makes sense — who in their right mind wants more nausea during pregnancy? But iron is essential, and the form of the ingredient can make the difference here.

Ferrous Bisglycinate, is a gentle, chelated form of iron. Decades of human clinical studies show that Ferrous Bisglycinate is easier on the stomach than other forms of iron.

While designing our Essential Prenatal, we thought a lot about making it gentler. We chose Ferrous Bisglycinate as our form of iron, and we also designed our Prenatal Multivitamin with a delayed-release capsule after learning that capsules breaking down early can irritate the digestive tract. Our capsules don’t break down until the small intestine, which is the optimal place for nutrients to be absorbed.

As a bonus, delayed-release capsules don’t have to be taken with food. That’s how easy on the stomach they are.

We also include a citrus or mint scent tab with every bottle, so taking your daily prenatal can have a little zing of flavor as you take them.*

In Summary: Eat Your Minerals

Blood is important. We can all agree on that one. (Especially the vampires.)

Jokes aside, if you want to support blood cell formation, as well as oxygen transport then getting your recommended dietary allowance of iron is an excellent, and vital resource — especially during pregnancy, when iron demand, and blood volume, are higher than usual.


  1. USDA, Agricultural Research Service. Usual Nutrient Intake from Food and Beverages, by Pregnancy/Lactation Status, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2013-2016. 2020.

  2. Artal-Mittelmark, R. (2021). Healthy Living: Physical Changes During Pregnancy. Merck Manual. Retrieved April 8, 2024.

  3. Office of Dietary Supplements. (2023). Fact Sheet for Health Professionals: Iron. National Institutes of Health. Retrieved April 8, 2024.

  4. Singh, R., Soman-Faulkner, K., & Sugumar, K. (2023). Embryology, Hematopoiesis. In: StatPearls [Internet]. StatPearls Publishing. Retrieved April 8, 2024.

  5. USDA, Agricultural Research Service. Nutrient Intakes from Food and Beverages: Mean Amounts Consumed per Individual, by Gender and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2015-2016. 2018.

Meet the Author

This article was written by our content specialist.

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs, Copywriter and Editor

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs is a New York-based writer and editor of words dealing with reproductive and mental health. She is in the process of getting a master's in community health from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs, Copywriter and Editor

Sarah duRivage-Jacobs is a New York-based writer and editor of words dealing with reproductive and mental health. She is in the process of getting a master's in community health from the CUNY Graduate School of Public Health and Health Policy.


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