Warning: You May Be At Risk For Pregnancy Related Anemia
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What Is Anemia?
Today we're going to talk a little about the health of your blood during pregnancy. Because your blood is the transport vehicle for all nutrients to your little bundle of joy, it is important to take steps to ensure your blood is fit for the job. Don't worry though, most people's blood is perfectly healthy and ready to nourish their unborn child.
Anemia is when your red blood cell or hemoglobin count is low. Iron is an important mineral that maintains good red blood cell production. Generally anemia can be traced back to low dietary intake of iron.
During pregnancy our bodies ensure our baby's iron needs are met before ours, so symptoms related to low red blood cell count first appear in the mother. They include: pallor, extreme fatigue, weakness, palpitations, breathlessness, and fainting spells. It is very rare that a baby will be born with iron deficiency.
It is important to note that iron deficiency during pregnancy can have adverse effects on the mental development of the child.
Who May Be At Risk For Low Iron Levels During Pregnancy?
1. Women who've had several babies in a short period of time.
2. Women who are carrying more than one baby (twins)
3. Women who've had extreme morning sickness during the first trimester, so ate very little
4. Women who were undernourished before pregnancy and/or have eaten very poorly since pregnancy began
Do Doctors Test For Iron Deficiency?
Yes, generally you will receive a blood test after your first prenatal visit with your healthcare practitioner which will test for anemia among other things. If you exhibit signs of iron deficiency during your pregnancy they will administer another test to ensure everything is alright.
At What Point During Pregnancy Do Our Iron Levels Become More Of A Concern?
During the first 19 weeks of pregnancy iron stores are usually fine because the body is well adapted to conserving good iron stores, if dietary intake is adequate. It isn't until about 20 weeks that our bodies will require added iron due to a substantial increase in blood volume. But don't worry, it is really easy to ensure you are eating enough iron containing foods.
What Are The Best Iron Containing Foods?
Yup the best way to ensure good iron levels is to eat liver and it really isn't that bad. When selecting this organ meat please only purchase if it has come from a free range organically raised animal.
2. Unsulphured Blackstrap Molasses
Blackstrap molasses is what remains after the sugar crystals are extracted from sugar cane. The best way to consume is to simply add 1 tbsp to a cup of hot lemon water or tea. Click here to purchase a good blackstrap molasses.
3. Eggs - The Best Food In The Whole World Ever!
If you've read my It's No Yolk! article than you know how much I love eggs and think they are truly the perfect food. Once again eggs come to the rescue as an excellent source of iron.
4. Spinach, turmeric, swiss chard, shiitake mushrooms, and green beans
These foods all contain good amounts of iron and in addition to blackstrap molasses are a great way for the vegetarians/vegans among us to get adequate amounts of dietary iron.
What Else Can You do To Ensure Good Iron Levels During Pregnancy?
1. Take a high nutrient cod liver oil.
You're probably sick of me telling you to take cod liver oil, this suggestion comes up lots on this site. It is such an important nutrient for mom and growing baby. When it comes to iron cod liver oil contains vitamin A, a necessary nutrient for iron absorption.
2. Avoid refined carbohydrates and sugars
Besides the fact these foods have no nutrient value whatsoever, they also contribute to poor digestion negatively affecting iron absorption.
3. Consume plenty of fermented foods and/or take a high cell count probiotic
Pathogens like candida in the gut inhibit iron absorption, so ensuring good gut health via probiotics is a great way to increase iron uptake. Check out my Shocking Truth About Probiotics article to learn more about how to incorporate probiotics into your diet.
4. Avoid oxalic acid containing foods
Oxalic acid containing foods include spinach, rhubarb, tomatoes, and chocolate. Oxalic acid blocks iron absorption.
5. Take a good quality iron containing prenatal vitamin
I am a "whole foodist", therefore not a huge fan of supplementation, but a prenatal vitamin is a supplement I do recommend to all women, even if they are not pregnant.
6. Vitamin C enhances iron absorption, so when eating your iron containing foods have them with a side of vitamin C containing foods
Foods that are high in vitamin C include: bell peppers, parsley, broccoli, strawberries, cauliflower, lemons, papaya, kale, kiwi, and oranges.
7. Avoid Soy
If you've read The Top 10 Foods To Avoid During Pregnancy you are probably already avoiding soy. Soy protein being an inhibitor of iron absorption is yet another reason to avoid this food.
Please Don't Stress!
Our bodies are well programmed to store iron because it is such an essential trace mineral. As long as you're eating a healthy whole foods diet and ensuring it contains some foods high in iron, you should be fine. Healthcare practitioners are also well aware of iron needs during pregnancy and will know the warning signs of iron deficiency. I don't want you to stress about your iron intake, just be aware of the importance of iron especially when you reach the 19/20 week mark in your pregnancy.
Please remember I am not a doctor and my intention is not to treat, cure, or diagnose, but to inform. If you feel you may have signs or symptoms associated with iron deficiency, contact your healthcare provider immediately.
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Love and Happiness,
Krystal Bernier, Holistic Nutritionist
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