Anemia is a condition in which the body does not produce enough red blood cells, which are needed to carry oxygen and iron.
Mild anemia is normal during pregnancy, as a woman’s blood volume increases by 40 percent.
For most women taking a prenatal vitamin or adding more dietary sources of iron can be sufficient to boost the production of red blood cells during pregnancy. However, new mothers may also be advised to continue taking prenatal vitamins for some time after giving birth. Since iron deficiency after childbirth is also common, supplements and a nutritious diet can help new mothers get red blood cell counts back to normal.
Postpartum anemia can factor in how exhausted some new mothers feel, can affect the ability to successfully breastfeed and play a part in the likelihood of postnatal depression.
It may not always be easy for a new mother to tell if she is anemic since fatigue is a common symptom of even the healthiest pregnancy or postpartum period. Caring for a newborn, while recovering from childbirth, can be exhausting.
A new mother may want to consider the following questions?
Is your fatigue so severe that you cannot get anything done? Has it lasted for more than six weeks following the delivery? Do you feel irritable or depressed? Have you had frequent urinary tract infections? Are you having trouble producing enough breast milk?
Anemia can also present other symptoms besides fatigue. Symptoms may include an unusually rapid heartbeat, especially after exercise, shortness of breath, difficulty concentrating, dizziness, leg cramps and insomnia.
Be sure to discuss any symptoms with your healthcare provider. The form of treatment varies depending on iron levels.
There are some steps you can take to prevent or minimize postpartum anemia.
- Continue taking your prenatal vitamins. Prenatal vitamin supplements should contain at least 400 micrograms of folic acid. Be sure to discuss any ongoing nutritional supplementation with your healthcare provider.
- Eat foods rich in folate, the form of folic acid found in food. Folate-rich foods include leafy, dark green vegetables, dried beans and peas, citrus fruits, berries, fortified breakfast cereals and enriched grain products
- Include iron-rich foods in your diet. Iron rich foods include red meat, liver, turkey, fish, soy products, lentils, dry beans and peas, tofu, leafy green vegetables, yeast-leavened whole wheat bread, and iron-enriched bread, pasta, rice and cereal.
- Don’t eat too many calcium-rich foods as calcium has been shown to reduce the absorption of iron.
Getting your red blood cell count back to normal can ensure that you have the energy needed to care for your new baby.