Ferrous Sulfate (FeSO4) & Pregnancy: IRONing Out the Facts

Ferrous Sulfate (FeSO4) & Pregnancy: IRONing Out the Facts

So you’ve finally learned the great news that your little bundle of joy is on the way and you’ll be meeting him or her in more or less nine months. What happens next? You’re probably preparing for the morning sickness, hormonal changes, cravings (paglilihi)and other things that are naturally part of the journey called pregnancy.

 You’re also eager for your visits to your obstetrician to ensure a healthy and safe pregnancy. One of the first things your doctor would talk to you about is micronutrient supplementation, or the vitamins and minerals that you and your baby will need. One such needed micronutrient is Iron, and your doctor will most likely discuss Ferrous Sulfate.


What is Ferrous Sulfate?          

            Ferrum (Fe), or commonly known as Iron,is a naturally-occurring protein in your body, particularly in your blood. Iron is the reason why your blood is colored red. It plays a vital role in bringing oxygen to all parts of your body.

            It is especially important for pregnant women as will be discussed below. Ferrous Sulfate, which is a type of iron, is an essential body mineral which can come in the form of medicine/iron supplements. Obstetricians prescribe it to pregnant mothers during antenatal care.


Why is it important for pregnant mothers?

            During pregnancy, your body needs to take care of both you and your baby. In order to do so, your body undergoes a lot of changes both inside and out. For instance, you have 50% more blood when you are pregnant. Such sudden increase in blood production might lead to Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA), because more blood means more iron. Sometimes your body cannot make enough iron to meet the demand – and that can lead to undesirable effects.


Effects of Iron Deficiency

            Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA) is one of the most common problems during pregnancy, especially when women are iron-deficient even before they start their pregnancy.

            Mild Anemia that is detected and treated early does not pose a big problem, but Anemia that is severe, untreated or lasts a long time should be avoided at all costs. This type of serious Anemia has been linked to premature delivery, low birth weight of the child upon being born, and worst, stillbirth or infant death.


Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia

            The easiest way to tell if you are suffering from IDA is through your doctor’s help. Your doctor is constantly monitoring your iron condition as part of your antenatal care. Mild anemia will most likely not show any outward symptoms, making it hard to detect with a physical scan of the body. Fatigue and weakness are the two most common symptoms of anemia, especially severe anemia. Since fatigue is often experienced during pregnancy, most women do not realize that it’s probably because of anemia.

            Other symptoms of severe anemia are: shortness of breath, dizziness, headache, pale complexion, palpitations, chest pain, irritability, leg cramps and cracks in the corners of your mouth. Tell your doctor immediately if you are experiencing more of these symptoms.


How Much Iron Do You Need?

            The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends one supplement daily of around 30-60mg of Iron throughout pregnancy for all pregnant adolescent and adult women. Iron Supplementation must be started as early as possible, upon the doctor’s discretion based on the pregnant woman’s health condition.

            However, you can choose to fulfill your iron intake goals on a weekly basis. A weekly dose of 100-120mg of Iron for non-anemic pregnant women is sufficient.

What foods are rich in Iron?

            Add more iron to your diet! This is the most natural and delicious way to supplement your Ferrous Sulfate needs. The Food Nutrition Research Institute came up with a list of Filipino Foods Rich in Iron. Be creative and try to use these foods in various tasty dishes:

Sources of Heme-Iron

Milligrams of Iron per 100 grams of food

Pork liver


Anchovy dried (dilis)


Duck liver


Theraponid silvery (ayungin)


Beef liver


Clams (halaan, paros)

Oysters (talaba)

Egg yolk chicken




Shrimp head (sugpo)


Chicken liver



Sources of Non-Heme Iron

Milligrams of Iron per 100 grams of food



     Soy bean


        Cheese (tahure)


        Curd (tausi)


        Curd (tofu)


Green Leafy Vegetables


        Gabi leaves


        Chinese Celery (kinchay)


Corchorusolitorius Jute (saluyot)


Amaranthusgracilis (kulitis)


        Allium ordoratum Leek (kutsay)


        Horseradish tree leaves   






Where can you get Ferrous Sulfate Supplements?

            Ask your doctor about Ferrous Sulfate on your next medical check-up. Government-run health centers and lying-in clinics also offer them for free to their pregnant patients. However, obstetricians would probably not recommend it yet while you are experiencing “morning sickness”/nausea or vomiting (pagduduwal/pagsusuka).In the case of nausea during the first three months of pregnancy, iron supplementation is started after 14 weeks and consumed for at least six months.


How to Take Iron Supplements

            Iron Supplements are best taken on an empty stomach for easier absorption of the body. It is recommended to be taken in combination with Vitamin C or Vitamin C-enriched beverages such as orange juice.


            As is always the case, consult your doctor for any changes you want to do in your diet, lifestyle or medicine/supplement intake. Don’t be afraid to ask your obstetrician questions and voice out your concerns to him or her.

Pregnancy is a wonderful and beautiful thing. Make the most out of your nine-month journey when your baby can be in one of the safest places he or she can be: in your womb and directly under your care.


Have a safe, healthy and happy pregnancy!




1. POGS, Inc. Clinical Practice Guidelines on Maternal Nutrition and Supplementation 2013

POGS, Inc. Clinical Practice Guidelines on Iron Deficiency Anemia 2009

2. The Philippine Food Composition Tables 1997, Food Nutrition Research Institute

3. Wheby MS (Ed) Anemia. Med Clin North Am 1992

4.WHO. Guideline: Daily iron and folic acid supplementation in pregnant women. Geneva, World Health Organization, 2012.


6. Image from http://www.healthypregnancytips.net