Diet for Anemia in Pregnancy

by Sharon Hopkins

Anemia indicates a low level of hemoglobin or red blood cells in your body. Since the primary function of red blood cells is to carry oxygen to different parts of your body, having a low red blood cell count means that your body has to work more intensely to get oxygen to the different cells and tissue of its organs. This leaves you feeling tired, lethargic, and at times even more irritable than normal. Anemia can be caused by a variety of factors. You may be suffering from a genetic disease called sickle cell anemia that causes low hemoglobin levels. Alternatively, you may also have suffered a huge blood loss due to a trauma or injury. This would have caused a natural reduction of the number of red blood cells in the boudy.

The most common reason for anemia however is a lack of proper nutrition. This nutritional deficiency stems from a low level of vitamins, folic acid and iron in a woman’s body. As a rule, the recommended intake of iron is 18mg per day for an adult woman. However, if you are pregnant, this recommended daily intake rises to 27mg. This happens because your blood volume increases by nearly fifty percent when you are pregnant. The baby you are carrying will also be making demands on your body for nutrition and draw upon your store of iron for its development. Therefore low levels of iron can lead to anemia during pregnancy. In case you are carrying twins, have had two pregnancies in quick succession of each other, suffered from heavy periods prior to your pregnancy, and suffer from severe morning sickness and vomiting, your iron supplies could be further depleted. Typical symptoms of an iron deficiency or anemia include constant fatigue and weakness, dizziness, shortness of breath, erratic heartbeat, lack of concentration and an excessively pale complexion. This pale and almost bloodless pallor is most visible under the eyelids, and in your lips and fingernails.

Most doctors will prescribe an iron supplement if you are anemic. However this treatment will be effective only in cases where iron deficiency is the cause of anemia. If anemia is caused by anything other than this, the supplements will have no effect on the condition. Iron supplements can be taken in doses of 60mg or 120mg and should be taken on an empty stomach. Drinking a glass of orange juice or any juice rich in vitamin C aids the absorption of iron into the body. Try and avoid taking iron supplements along with calcium such as milk as this can inhibit absorption. Many women complain of constipation, heartburn, nausea and dark stools once they start taking iron supplements. This is completely normal and is no cause for worry. If these symptoms are becoming unbearable, contact your doctor for a remedy. You can also try different brands of iron supplements to see which one works best for you. Do not take the supplements at bedtime and drink a lot of water to prevent nausea and heartburn. Increasing the amount of fiber rich foods in your diet can also reduce constipation.

Anemia during pregnancy can lead to exhaustion and low immunity. It also increases your chances of premature labor and low birth weight of your baby. The best way to prevent anemia and increase your store of iron and red blood cells in your body is through your diet. There are several foods that are rich in iron and can be included in a balanced, healthy diet. Iron rich foods include red meat, fish, and poultry. If you are a vegetarian, you can opt for green leafy vegetables, tofu, pulses, and dried fruit instead. Whole grain bread, cereals fortified with iron and nuts are also iron rich alternatives. That said, the best way for the body to absorb iron is still from meat sources. In case you are totally averse to the idea of including meat in your diet, make sure that you include fruits or foods high in vitamin C along with your iron rich vegetables to increase the absorption of iron into your system. Another excellent source of iron is from liver and liver products. However it is necessary to avoid these if you are pregnant. Liver is a rich source of Vitamin A and too much Vitamin A could cause some major birth defects to your baby.

Some other foods that are rich in iron and safe for your pregnancy are:

  • Oatmeal
  • Seafood (check with your doctor what seafood is safe during pregnancy)
  • Dark meat of poultry
  • Broccoli and spinach
  • Seeds, nuts, beans, and peas
  • Oranges and grapefruits 
  • Tomatoes and strawberries

Avoid coffee, milk, soy milk, egg yolks, alcohol, and tea as they can inhibit the absorption of iron into your body.

Warning: The reader of this article should exercise all precautionary measures while following instructions on the home remedies from this article. Avoid using any of these products if you are allergic to it. The responsibility lies with the reader and not with the site or the writer.
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