Here in Sri Lanka, every pregnant mother is given iron tablets. Is it necessary to take? How can we meet the iron requirement with natural foods?
Haemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells. Its main function is to carry oxygen from lungs to the rest of the body and to return carbon dioxide from tissues to the lungs. One major component of haemoglobin is iron. Lack of iron in the body can lead to reduced production of haemoglobin; a condition known as anaemia. Anaemia can cause various symptoms and complications. These complications can be profound during pregnancy. 
The Sri Lanka Demographic and Health Survey in 2007 found the overall prevalence of anaemia among pregnant women to be 34%. Prevalence among non-pregnant women of child bearing age is 39.1%. Occurrence of anaemia proportionately increases with the number of children a woman has. Although there are many causes for anaemia, iron deficiency is the major cause. Women have to produce more blood during pregnancy to meet the demand of her body and the growing child. Despite higher requirement of iron, the prevalence of anaemia in pregnant women is lesser than that of non-pregnant women. This is probably due to the iron supplements given for pregnant mothers in our country. , 
Females lose a significant amount of iron with their monthly menstrual bleeding. Therefore, females have a higher requirement of iron, especially during their menstrual days.
Iron is found in various food sources. This includes, red meat, poultry meat, egg, fish, leafy green vegetables, lentils, beans, nuts, dates and dried fruits. Iron from plant sources are less absorbed from the gut. Therefore, pure vegans and vegetarians are at increased risk of iron deficiency anaemia.
Coffee, tea and calcium can reduce iron absorption from the gut. This can be prevented by not having tea, coffee, calcium rich food or calcium supplements just before meals and at least 2 hours after meals. Vitamin C increases iron absorption from the gut. Therefore, consuming foods rich in vitamin C (e.g. citrus fruits, tomatoes, etc.) can increase iron absorption.
Considering the prevalence of iron deficiency, most pregnant mothers in Sri Lanka would benefit with a routine iron supplement. Nevertheless, a proportion of mothers may not require additional supplements. But this has to be decided after careful assessment by an obstetrician and doing a full blood count (FBC).
In conclusion, there are various natural ways of increasing haemoglobin, but this may not be adequate for most pregnant mothers in Sri Lanka.
- Demographic and Health Survey. 2007. “Prevalence of Anaemia Among Children and Womne in Sri Lanka.” Department of Census and Statistics Sri Lanka. Accessed Apr 10, 2019. http://www.statistics.gov.lk/social/Anemia.pdf.
- Guyton, Arthur C, and John E Hall. 2008. Text book of Medical Physiology. Delhi: Elsevier.