Iron in pregnancy
The importance of good nutrients and vitamins during pregnancy is something that us Midwives are passionate about and always discussing at each visit. The saying, "you are what you eat" is especially true during pregnancy. In order to remain in care with an out of hospital Midwife, you must be low risk. The way that we keep you low risk is by educating you on the importance of healthy eating habits, exercise and vitamins. Your job as a client & pregnant person to remain low risk is by staying healthy by following these recommendations for eating, vitamins etc. Working together as a team to have the best pregnancy & birth outcomes is crucial for both provider and mom. One of the things we often see is low hemoglobin also known as low iron. There are four types of anemia during pregnancy and this is something that is closely monitored right from the start.
These include; anemia of pregnancy, iron deficiency anemia, vitamin B-12 deficiency, and folate deficiency. Having anemia can cause many things during pregnancy. This condition can cause low birth weight and even preterm birth. This condition can also make you feel very fatigued, dizzy, out of breath and can cause headaches. Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin, a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy, you need double the amount of iron that nonpregnant women need. Your body needs this iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. Your body also goes through a process called hemodilution in which blood volume increases, which results in hemodilution. Red blood cell (RBC) mass increases during pregnancy, plasma volume increases more, resulting in anemia. Prior to birth, low iron or anemia can cause a condition called Pica, which can have a slue of adverse effects on you and your baby. Pica is an eating disorder in which people compulsively eat one or more nonfood items, such as ice, clay, paper, ash, or dirt. We have even seen moms want to chew or suck on rocks. It's not known why people crave these non-edible things but it is typically a true sign of anemia. Early on in pregnancy, blood work is done at your initial visit. This includes an STD panel, blood type & RH Factor and a full prenatal panel that would also have your hemoglobin levels along with B12 etc. The normal range is 11 or above. Whenever the levels are below that number, it's advised to focus on iron rich foods since nutrients from foods are always going to be the best way for your body to absorb vitamins and then an iron supplement. Some iron rich foods include: Leafy greens such as spinach, kale and collard greens.
Other foods such as beans, lentils, legumes, meats, and fortified cereals are also good. Depending on your results, your Midwife will go over the findings with you and recommend which supplement is best for your particular situation. Too much dairy can inhibit the absorption of iron but Vitamin C or citrus fruit, is very good to help with absorption. So while taking your iron supplements, try staying away from the dairy and increasing the vitamin C rich fruits. Having a history of low iron prior to pregnancy or during other pregnancies is usually an indication that it might occur again.. Focusing on healthy nutrients and increasing iron rich foods right from the start will help prevent any issues later on in the pregnancy. One of the things we are always concerned about for later on, is postpartum bleeding. When you go into labor we know you are going to have postpartum bleeding (which is normal) but having bleeding with low iron is a dangerous complication for birth. Too much bleeding can result in a dangerously low hemoglobin that can cause postpartum hemorrhage, a need for transferring into the hospital for a blood transfusion and then can lead to low milk supply.
Yes, low milk supply! This can absolutely affect your milk supply because your body will be focusing on building red blood cells instead of building up a good milk supply. So, staying healthy, eating good nutrients with lots of iron rich foods is not only important for your health, but it's extremely important for the health of your baby and for the safety of a good birth & postpartum outcome.