Anemia In Pregnancy

| September 23, 2014

Anemia In PregnancyAnemia in Pregnancy

I experienced anemia during pregnancy. It was a bit of a shocker on a number of levels.

One – I took prenatal supplements and ate extremely nutritious, iron rich foods while pregnant.

Two – My iron levels were in good standing when I was testing in the first trimester.

Three – No one tested me or suggested further testing until the end of my pregnancy.

AnemiaSince low iron during pregnancy is fairly common, I was surprised that there isn’t earlier testing offered. My midwife tested me near the end of my 7th month. When she revealed my results, she said unless my critically low iron levels came up in the next month, I couldn’t have a home birth. WTF… A month is not much time to increase iron levels.

Her strategy involved taking an iron pill that was often given during pregnancy. I asked if diet could work and she said, “No, there isn’t enough time.” I set out to gather everything I could on the topic. I started with her suggested iron pill: Feramax. The non-medical ingredients were problematic. Feramax containes dyes (D&C Red #28, D&C Yellow #10, FDC Blue #1, FDC Red #40) which have been flagged in association with developmental issues and ADHD in children. I was concerned that unnecessary chemical dyes might affect the health of my baby, so I knew I needed to find an alternative. I did not take her suggested supplement.

I was highly motivated to increase my iron levels for two important reasons, potential health risks to my baby and I wanted to have a home birth.

Iron Deficiency Risks for Baby

Iron is crucial for all organ development, especially the brain. Prenatal anemia can lead to:

  • premature birth
  • low birth weight
  • developmental delays
  • an increased risk for autism 
  • a baby with anemia

 

What is Anemia?

“Anemia (uh-NEE-me-uh) is a condition in which your blood has a lower than normal number of red blood cells. Anemia also can occur if your red blood cells don’t contain enough hemoglobin (HEE-muh-glow-bin). Hemoglobin is an iron-rich protein that gives blood its red color. This protein helps red blood cells carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.” (NIH)

 

Symptoms and Signs of Anemia in Pregnancy

I had some of the signs of anemia, but I thought they were regular side effects of pregnancy. If you have any of the following please consult with your health care practitioner:

  • Anemia Symptomsexhaustion
  • feeling weak
  • poor concentration
  • dizzyness
  • shortness of breath
  • pale skin, pale lips
  • chest pain
  • frequent infections
  • fast heart beat
  • brittle nails
  • cravings for dirt
  • restless legs
  • poor appetite

These signs and symptoms can occur because your heart has to work harder to pump oxygen-rich blood through your body.

 

What Causes Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy?

Iron deficiency anemia can occur during pregnancy because the baby uses the mom’s iron stores to develop. The extra requirements are not necessary in the first trimester, however the second and third trimester require additional supplementation of iron as the baby’s needs increase. Most women are unable to get enough iron through diet alone and must take an iron supplement.

 

Recommended Dietary Allowance

The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for iron during pregnancy is 27 mg per day. The maximum is 45 mg per day. The RDA for iron is the level sufficient by the Food and Nutrition Board to meet the requirements of 97.5% of healthy pregnant women. You may require more, but that should be determined by a blood test through your health care practitioner, as excess iron can be detrimental to your health and your baby’s health.

Not all iron supplements are the same. 

 

My Iron Strategy

Iron rich foods quinoaI  took a two-pronged approach.

  1. Iron Rich Foods (For suggested foods high in iron, read my article “Iron Rich Foods”)
  2. Iron Supplements
  3. Vitamin C

I continued to eat foods high in iron like hemp seeds, quinoa and dark leafy greens. I also ate organic beef, lamb and chicken.

I continued to take my prenatal vitamins called Baby & Me by Megafoods.

Iron Supplement for AnemiaBut what tipped the scales and helped me increase my iron levels quickly and safely was a non-constipating liquid iron supplement called Spatone and a whole food supplement by Megafoods called Blood Builder (which contains Vitamin C in addition to iron).

In summary, in addition to my prenatals, I took 2 sachets of Spatone and 2 Blood Builder pills. 

When my blood was retested, I was in the safe zone for my baby and for a home birth.

I ended up not having a home birth. While at the hospital my iron levels were tested. The nurse came in with the results. She asked, “What did you eat while pregnant? Your iron levels are the best I’ve ever seen among birthing women.” I smiled briefly, then returned to my task at hand, birthing my beautiful baby.

Just to be clear, telling you about these supplements should not be construed as or substituted for medical advice. They worked well during my pregnancy.  
 

Additional Suggestions

Do not wait for a doctor or midwife to test your iron levels. Ensure you have a routine blood test done prior to conceiving, shortly after you get pregnant, at 4.5 months and at the end of month 7. This way, if your iron levels are low or there are other concerns you can address them quickly. Your baby’s health and development depend on it.

Spatone Iron SupplementAlso note: many iron supplements are constipating. Women tend to get at least a little constipated while pregnant, so avoid any constipating iron supplements. That’s why I chose Spatone, its non-constipating and has no preservatives or additives.

 

Sources

  • http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/iron-deficiency-anemia/basics/symptoms/con-20019327
  • http://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/anemia-in-pregnancy
  • http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/anemia/
  • http://www.nelsonsnaturalworld.com/en-gb/uk/our-brands/spatone/iron-essentials/how-does-spatone-compare-to-iron-tablets

 

 

 

Category: Health, Health & Wellness, Nutrition, Prenatal Stress

Tara Bianca

About the Author ()

Tara Bianca is a spiritual and transformational coach, facilitator and author whose inspirational mentorship empowers everyday people to transform their lives to access joy, aliveness, clarity, focus and direction.

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