Food for thought
At 10 weeks pregnant, your baby’s brain is in a rapid phase of development. Iron contributes to their cognitive development and your own energy levels too. Learn how to include enough iron in your diet, and which other nutrients can affect your body’s ability to absorb this pregnancy powerhouse.
Your baby's development at 10 weeks
A time of brain development
By your 10th week of pregnancy, your baby measures between 3 and 4cm long1,2. Although already baby-like in appearance, their head is still disproportionately large – a sign of all the brain development that has occurred even at this early stage3.
Within your baby’s developing jawbone, tiny teeth buds are forming. Miniscule ear canals are also taking shape4, while throughout the rest of the body, bones and cartilage are beginning to grow2.
Iron: Food for thought
Iron is one of the key nutrients in a healthy pregnancy diet. Your blood cells need it for carrying oxygen around your body and to your baby. Your baby needs it for normal cognitive development.
An adequate intake of iron supports the formation of red blood cells and haemoglobin in your blood, which carry oxygen around your body5. Having healthy red blood cells reduces your risk of developing anaemia. Sometimes called iron deficiency anaemia, this condition can leave you feeling tired, washed-out and breathless.
Your iron levels will be checked at regular intervals during pregnancy. But if you start feeling particularly sluggish at any time, let your midwife or doctor know. You may need to take iron supplements for a while.
The recommended daily intake of iron for women is 14.8mg per day6.
Iron-rich foods include red meat, oily fish, eggs, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals and
The gift of future health
Increase your iron intake
Other nutrients affect your body’s ability to absorb iron. Vitamin C, for example, aids the absorption of non-haem iron found in plant sources, such as beans and green, leafy vegetables6. Calcium, however, inhibits it6. It is also thought that the tannins found in tea and coffee can also have a negative effect on iron absorption6.
To maximise the amount of iron your body absorbs when eating plant sources of iron, combine them with a vitamin C-rich fruit or glass of juice.
Plan meals that contain the following iron-rich ingredients:
- Lean meat (always make sure it's well cooked) and oily fish, such as sardines
- Dark green vegetables, including broccoli, watercress, spinach and kale
- Nuts, especially cashew nuts
- Beans and pulses, such as chickpeas and lentils
- Wholegrains, including wholemeal bread and iron-fortified breakfast cereals
- Dried fruits, such as apricots, prunes and raisins
1. Papaioannou GI et al. Normal ranges of embryonic length, embryonic heart rate, gestational sac diameter and yolk sac diameter at 6-10 weeks. Fetal Diagn Ther 2010;28(4):207-19.
2. Murkoff H, Mazel S. What to Expect When You’re Expecting. 4th ed. London: Simon & Schuster Ltd, 2009. p. 169.
3. Deans A. Your New Pregnancy Bible, The experts’ guide to pregnancy and early parenthood. 4th ed. London: Carroll & Brown Publishers Limited, 2013. p. 33.
4. NHS UK. You and your baby at 9-12 weeks pregnant [Online]. 2013. Available at: www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/pages/pregnancy-weeks-9-10-11-12.aspx [Accessed June 2014]
5. European Union. Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health. OJ L 136 2012;1-40.
6. Department of Health. Report on Health and Social Subjects 41. Dietary Reference Values for Food Energy and Nutrients for the United Kingdom. London: TSO, 1991.
Last reviewed: 7th July 2016
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