The Best Iron Supplements for Pregnancy, as Chosen by Experts
A healthy store of iron—alongside other complementary nutrients—is important for mom and baby during pregnancy. But what is iron and why is it so important? Iron is a mineral stored in the red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, as well as your developing baby. Unfortunately, iron deficiency is a common issue and is the leading cause of anemia during pregnancy. In fact, the American Pregnancy Association (APA) states that approximately 15 to 25 percent of all pregnancies experience iron deficiency. Of course, it’s normal to feel extra tired when you’re expecting, especially in the first and third trimester. If, however, you’re pale, extremely exhausted, getting short of breath or are experiencing heart palpitations you could be anemic. In that case, your doctor will likely talk to you about ways you can supplement your iron supply.
To help you understand the ins and outs of iron supplementation, we spoke with two medical experts and read up on the research from accredited sources—so you don’t have to. Keep scrolling to learn more, then browse our pick of the best iron supplements for pregnancy.
In most cases, yes, iron supplements are safe for pregnant people. According to Sherry Ross, MD, an ob-gyn, women’s sexual health expert and author of the She-ology series, iron supplements are commonly recommended during pregnancy in addition to a prenatal vitamin. With that said, Ryann Kipping, MPH, RDN, CLEC, founder of The Prenatal Nutritionist, advises people to proceed with caution and to speak with their doctor before adding any supplements to their diet.
If you have a preexisting condition, it’s especially important to check with your doctor before taking any supplements. “Pregnant women with a medical condition called hemochromatosis, where the body creates excessive iron, should not take additional iron during pregnancy,” says Ross. Other conditions where iron supplements should not be used include sickle-cell anemia and thalassemia.
While iron supplements are generally considered to be safe, keep in mind that iron tablets can cause side effects during pregnancy. “Iron can be hard on the gastrointestinal tract causing constipation, nausea, diarrhea, stomach cramps and vomiting,” explains Ross. Constipation—a symptom that many pregnant women are already prone to—is one of the main side effects. While you can combat this by taking a stool softener, Kipping recommends pregnant folks consistently consume 30 grams of fiber per day accompanied by plenty of fluids. Another thing to note is that there are some kinds of anemia that aren’t treated with iron supplementation. In these cases, taking iron may do more harm than good.
If your health provider gives you the green light to use an iron supplement during pregnancy, here are some key factors to consider:
- Dosage. It’s important to work with your doctor to determine the correct dosage of iron during pregnancy, as they will take into account your blood work, diet, lifestyle and other factors. With that said, the National Institutes of Health states that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of iron for pregnant people is 27 mg per day.
- Easy to absorb. As mentioned above, iron supplements can aggravate nausea, constipation and other pregnancy-related ailments. To curb side effects, Ross advises parents to choose an easily absorbable form of iron, such as iron bisglycinate or ferrous sulfate. If possible, opt for a slow-release formula, as this type is gentler on the stomach.
- Added nutrients: Taking vitamin C with an iron supplement can help improve absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. In fact, there are some supplements that contain both iron and vitamin C in one pill.
- Timing. If your doctor does recommend taking an iron supplement, ask for advice on what time of the day to take it, especially if you are on other over-the-counter or prescription medications. For example, the APA states that “it’s important to take iron at least two hours before or four hours after taking antacids as they can interfere with iron absorption.”
Before you run out and stockpile supplements, take note of what’s already in your refrigerator. According to Kipping, “the goal is to meet your iron and vitamin C needs through food first.” The best way to get the iron you need is by eating iron-rich foods like lean red meat, chicken, dark leafy greens, lentils and chia seeds. Unless you follow a plant-based diet, Kipping suggests focusing on animal-based protein sources as they deliver “heme iron,” which is easier to absorb and is better utilized by the body.
Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron, and can also be found in natural sources, such as broccoli, oranges, bell peppers, kale and strawberries. Try to include these nutrient-rich foods in your diet or make a habit of drinking a glass of fresh orange juice every day.
Ready to start your search for the best iron supplement for pregnancy? It’s important to note that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve supplements before they go to market. However, as we want to ensure all of the products we recommend are safe to use under medical supervision, we’ve prioritized supplements that have undergone third-party testing by independent agencies. Browse our list of over-the-counter iron supplements below:
Pegged as the top-rated iron supplement by medical professionals, Slow Fe is a great option if traditional tablets make you queasy. A controlled release system delivers the high potency iron you need, while still being gentle on your stomach. Each tablet contains 45 mg of elemental iron (the equivalent of 142 mg of ferrous sulfate), so you’ll get all the minerals you need in one small easy-to-swallow tablet.
Iron type: Elemental iron | Dose: 45 mg | Suggested use: Take one tablet daily
- Each tablet contains 45 mg of iron
- Easy to swallow tablet
- Slow-release technology is gentle on the stomach
- Some people found the individually wrapped tablets tricky to open
Struggle to swallow tablets? Check out this liquid formula with a delicious berry flavor. Mary Ruth’s Liquid Iron contains a unique form of iron called Ferrochel—AKA ferrous bisglycinate chelate—that’s easily absorbed by the body and won’t wreak havoc on your tummy. It’s free from all common allergens and is safe for use by pregnant and nursing moms. The best part? One tablespoon contains 27 mg of iron, so it’s easy to meet your daily mineral needs.
Iron type: Ferrous bisglycinate chelate | Dose: 27 mg | Suggested use: Take one tablespoon daily
- Pleasant berry flavor
- Single dose meets daily recommended amount of iron
- Vegan, non-GMO and free from artificial flavors
- High price point
If you’ve been diagnosed with anemia your doctor may recommend a higher dose of iron than the standard daily recommended amount. This supplement by Nature Made provides a whopping 65 mg of iron in a single daily tablet (that’s more than double the RDA for pregnancy). Plus, the small tablets are less than an inch long making them easier to swallow. While this pregnancy iron supplement won’t be the right fit for everyone, it’s a solid choice for people carrying multiples or folks with a serious iron deficiency. Bonus: This daily supplement was third-party tested and received a verified mark from U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP).
Iron type: Ferrous sulfate | Dose: 65 mg | Suggested use: Take one tablet daily with water and a meal
- USP verified
- Easy to swallow
- More than double recommended daily amount of iron in a single tablet
- High dose may cause stomach upset
The best iron supplement for pregnancy works with your lifestyle, which is why we recommend this option for people on a plant-based diet. A single capsule contains 25 mg of easily digestible iron, vitamin C to aid absorption and an iron-rich food blend made using organic beet, spinach, kale, Swiss chard and pumpkin seeds. It’s gentle on the stomach and the planet, making it a winner in our book.
Iron type: Ferrous bisglycinate chelate | Dose: 25 mg | Suggested use: Take one capsule daily with a meal and a full glass of water
- Plant-based formula
- Contains 50 mg of vitamin C
- Some people say the capsules have a strong aftertaste
If you already have an iron-rich diet and don’t struggle with anemia, these gummies are a good way to supplement your existing mineral stores. The grape-flavored sweet treats are gluten-free and dairy-free. And a single serving contains 20 mg of iron—plus 26 mg of vitamin C to support iron absorption and general health.
Iron type: Ferric saccharate | Dose: 20 mg | Suggested use: Eat two gummies daily
- Third-party tested
- Contains 26 mg of vitamin C
- Made without gluten, wheat, dairy, soy or GMOs
- Contains sugar
- Gummies only contain 74 percent of iron RDA
We get it—pregnancy can take a toll on your health and your energy reserves. While some level of fatigue is normal, many people experience an iron deficiency which can lead to a diagnosis of anemia during pregnancy. Fortunately, a daily iron tablet can help supplement your mineral stores and reduce any risks to mom or baby.
Once you’ve been given the go-ahead by your doctor, it’s time to find the right iron supplement for your particular needs. To streamline your decision-making process, our goal is to do the bulk of the research for you, so you don’t have to spend hours scrolling through online retailers. We do this by considering a list of criteria when sourcing supplements, including dosage, formula type, other nutritional factors and, last but definitely not least, safety. This way you can count on getting the best bang for your buck, while also having a dependable iron supplement for pregnancy.
To decide which iron supplements are the best options on the market, we leverage our familiarity with leading brands to make sure items are from reliable manufacturers. We read user reviews to get the lowdown on how these products work for people, prioritized products that have been third-party tested and avoided anything with less than an average four-star rating.
To make sure we’re highlighting supplements that are safe and effective, we consulted an ob-gyn and prenatal nutritionist to understand essential factors and safety considerations to keep top of mind. We also read recommendations from the American Pregnancy Association, National Institutes of Health and the US Food and Drug Administration.
Interested in learning more about our editorial process? Read about how our team develops and reviews all articles here.
Sherry Ross, MD, is an ob-gyn and women’s sexual health expert. She’s also the author of She-ology: The Definitive Guide to Women’s Intimate Health. Period as well as She-ology, The She-quel: Let’s Continue the Conversation. She received her medical degree from New York Medical College.
Ryann Kipping, MPH, RDN, CLEC, is the founder and CEO of The Prenatal Nutritionist. Kipping earned her degree in nutritional sciences at the University of Oklahoma and holds a master’s in public health from San Diego State University. She regularly posts prenatal nutrition content on Instagram at @prenatalnutritionist.
American Pregnancy Association, Anemia During Pregnancy
American Pregnancy Association, How to Treat Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy
National Institutes of Health, Iron Fact Sheet for Health Professionals, April 2022
U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Questions and Answers on Dietary Supplements, October 2022
Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.