Coping with Low Iron Levels during Pregnancy

Note: The Pregistry website includes expert reports on more than 2000 medications, 300 diseases, and 150 common exposures during pregnancy and lactation. For the topic Anemia, go here. These expert reports are free of charge and can be saved and shared.

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Extreme tiredness can be a fairly common pregnancy symptom; particularly in the first trimester. As your pregnancy progresses however, you should generally find that these symptoms start to ease, with most women finding their energy levels gradually returning to normal by the second trimester. If you are finding however that you are feeling exhausted most of the time, feel weak and lacking in energy, you may also be experiencing anemia – a condition caused by iron deficiency.

What is Iron Deficient Anaemia?

You may find yourself becoming anemic during pregnancy if you aren’t consuming enough iron in your diet. Iron helps the human body to produce red blood cells or haemoglobin – which is super important during pregnancy as it helps carry oxygen around the body. You need even more red blood cells during pregnancy (blood flow increases by up to 50!) and therefore you may find your iron levels aren’t sufficient based on your previous levels of intake.

As a result, iron deficiency is very common in pregnant women. Symptoms of iron deficiency during pregnancy can include pale or drawn skin, extreme tiredness or weakness and even mild heart palpitations and shortness of breath. If left untreated, low iron levels can also increase the risks of preterm delivery or even low birth weights in your baby; as well as making you feel exhausted even before you’ve attempted the labor process.

Due to the foods that are generally rich in iron, iron deficiency tends to be more common in vegetarian or vegan Mums to be and is also more likely if you are carrying multiples or are going through pregnancy soon after the birth of another child.

What can you do to prevent Iron Deficiency in pregnancy?

 The good news is that once you have established that you have an iron deficiency (something that can be determined by a simple blood test), you can do something about it relatively quickly by improving your diet. If your iron levels are particularly low your medical practitioner may recommend taking an iron supplement too. Iron supplements can sometimes cause some mild side effects such as constipation, but are overall easy to take daily with your meals.

The best way to prevent iron deficiency in the first place however is to eat a healthy balanced diet full of iron rich foods and support your diet with prenatal vitamins which can give your iron levels a little boost.

A healthy iron rich diet includes:

  • Red Meat such as beef or lamb
  • Fresh leafy green vegetables such as cabbage, spinach or broccoli
  • Seeds / grains and pulses
  • Oily Fish
  • Fortified bread and cereals

An easy way to boost your iron levels is to buy iron fortified items that you regularly consume, as well as adding green vegetables to your evening meals. It’s also important to ensure you have lots of vitamin C in your diet, as this helps your body absorb the iron in your food more easily. A glass of orange juice with your meal or fresh fruit such as oranges and kiwis are ideal.

During pregnancy it can be hard to find time to look after yourself, but making sure you eat well and get lots of rest it not only important for your baby; but ensures that you stay fit and healthy too!

Lucy Cotterill
Lucy is a UK-based parenting and lifestyle blogger who has also featured in the Huffington Post. A Mom of two daughters, Lucy is passionate about sharing the true reality of parenthood and helping others through their first experiences. In her free time she loves to write, go on day trips with her family and photography.

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