red blood cellsPregnancy puts additional stress and demands on your body, which can make various nutritional deficiencies to become more apparent. Anemia is common in pregnancy, a disorder that arises when your body does not have a sufficient number of red blood cells required to transport the amount of oxygen you need to maintain good health. During pregnancy, your blood volume is increased to address your changing needs as well as providing nutrients for your developing baby. This can double the amount iron you need in your system. Untreated, anemia can lead to complications for the Mother such as:

  • Hemorrhage
  • Fatigue

Untreated, anemia can lead to complications for the Baby such as:

  • Premature delivery
  • Low birth weight

Factors that can lead to Anemia

  • Loss of fluids due to excessive morning sickness
  • Insufficient spacing between pregnancies
  • Poor diet
  • Carrying twins or multiple babies

There are several types of anemia:

  • Iron-deficiency anemia: Iron produces hemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells, that helps transport oxygen throughout your body.
  • Folate-deficiency anemia: Folate Acid is a B vitamin that is used for producing new cells in your body, including red blood cells.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient needed by our bodies, we don’t make it, we need to ingest it. B12 is a component of healthy red blood cells.

Symptoms of Anemia

  • Tired or weak
  • Dizziness
  • Headache
  • Pale skin, lips and nails
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest Pain
  • Irritablility
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Trouble concentrating

Dietitians recommend that a pregnant woman get 18 mg of iron a day

Iron supplements should be kept out of reach of children, if a child overdoses on iron it can be deadly! Some women need more iron than 18 mg, your midwife will test to see if you need more. Some iron supplements can cause constipation. One solution, is to take your vitamins with a glass of prune juice or to take a supplement with ferrous fumarate or ferrous gluconate; ferrous sulfate is more likely to cause GI upset.

Food and herbs

There are two forms of dietary iron: heme and nonheme. Heme iron is derived from hemoglobin. It is found in animal foods that originally contained hemoglobin, such as red meats, fish, and poultry. Your body absorbs the most iron from heme sources. Iron in plant foods such as lentils, beans, and spinach is nonheme iron. This is the form of iron added to iron-enriched and iron-fortified foods. Our bodies are less efficient at absorbing nonheme iron, but most dietary iron is nonheme iron.

Green drinks and aloe-vera juice are two herbal remedies for anemia. Iron enhancing herbs include yellow dock, red raspberry or wild blackberry leaf, gentian, yellowroot, turmeric, mullein, nettle, parsley, ginseng, watercress, and dandelion.

Too much Iron:

At the same time it is possible to overdo iron supplements. Your care provider should have blood work done at the onset of pregnancy to determine if there are any inefficiencies and throughout the pregnancy insure any additional vitamins and supplements have addressed any problems. If you have a tendency toward high blood pressure or PIH (pregnancy induced hypertension), then you don’t want to overdo the iron, so be careful. Take just enough to keep your lab results in normal range. Seek out a natural iron supplement that is gentle on the stomach.

A better suggestion, see your midwife. Most midwives can recommend a prenatal vitamin/mineral supplement that is organic and balanced to provide all the essential nutrients to maintain a healthy pregnancy, including keeping your Iron levels normal. Many brands of vitamin and minerals found in pharmacies, convenience and grocery stores, are less expensive, but your cells can not absorb the vitamins and minerals, because your body does not recognize the components of these products.

As midwives, we have found that within 2 to 3 days of beginning to take a natural good quality prenatal vitamin and mineral supplement, mothers suffering from anemia begin to show better results in their lab tests. In addition, eating iron rich foods can help too so eat your greens.

Vitamin C is the magic vitamin that helps the other nutrients to hitchhike into your cells, without Vitamin C all your vitamins and minerals, including Iron, are less able to be absorbed.  Have a morning glass of orange juice, or eat a grapefruit, squeeze some lemon on your avocado. The natural sources of vitamin C are better than the pill form.

Caution is advised when taking a non-food based Iron supplement, because it is possible to take too much Iron. Please seek the advice of your healthcare provider when it comes to taking Iron or any nutritional supplements, or pills of any kind.  Best bet ~ a natural, well balanced, organic, non-GMO prenatal multivitamin with minerals, formulated for healthy pregnancy and baby.

Probiotics will help your body make health stomach flora, so all your vitamins, from food and from supplements absorb.

Books that give good nutritional advice for pregnancy:

Eating for Two Recipes for Pregnant and Postpartum Women, by: Robin Lim, available only online via








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