What is Iron Deficiency Anaemia?
Iron deficiency anaemia occurs when there are too few red blood cells to efficiently carry the oxygen around your body to your cells that need it.
Iron deficiency anaemia commonly occurs during pregnancy and can leave you feeling weak and fatigued. Let’s discuss what iron deficiency anaemia means for you and your baby, how to find out if you have it and how to treat it, or better still, try to avoid it.
Your body uses iron to make blood. During pregnancy you actually need twice the amount of iron as a non-pregnant person as you need to significantly increase your blood supply. The extra blood you make is what supplies your baby with oxygen, as well as essential vitamins and minerals (all via the placenta). If your iron levels are too low, iron deficiency anaemia can occur.
Effects of iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy
Mild anaemia may give you some symptoms, but is unlikely to cause any health issues for you or your baby. More severe anaemia can be dangerous for you both and your baby and will carry with it the following risks:
Effects on your baby of having severe anaemia:
· Premature birth (being born too early)
· Low birth weight
· Developing anaemia during infancy
Effects on the mother of having severe anaemia:
· Difficulty fighting infections
· High blood loss during birth
· Developing postpartum depression
Signs and Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Pregnancy
Sometimes it is difficult to spot the symptoms of iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy, especially if it is mild as some of the symptoms are the same as the normal side effects of being pregnant, e.g. tiredness.
Here is a list of the signs and symptoms associated with iron deficiency anaemia in pregnancy…
· Lethargy and weakness (fatigue)
· Shortness of breath
· Dizziness or light headedness
· Lack of concentration
· Pale yellowish completion
· Palpitations (noticeable heartbeats)
· Rapid or irregular heartbeat
· Cold hands and feet
Natural Remedies for Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Pregnancy
There are natural ways to try and improve your iron levels by introducing or increasing the iron rich foods in your diet.
Iron rich foods include:
· Red meats
· Beans, peas and pulses
· Dark green leafy vegetables – spinach, curly kale, spring greens etc
· Nuts and seeds
· Brown rice
· Iron-fortified foods, such as cereals, breads and pastas
· Dried fruit – raisins, apricots, prunes
Vegan and Vegetarian Diets During Pregnancy
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, it is important to note that iron found in plants is not as easily absorbed into the body as the iron found in meat. To help enhance your body's absorption of iron, drink orange or other citrus juices or eat foods rich in vitamin C at the same time you eat high-iron foods.
Iron Deficiency Anaemia Treatment in Pregnancy
If your iron deficiency anaemia is more severe then diet modifications alone are unlikely to have enough of an impact to raise your iron levels to the required amount that your body needs during pregnancy.
Usually if a blood test shows low iron and you have the symptoms of iron deficiency, your midwife or health care provider will suggest trying you with a stronger iron supplement to boost your levels. Only your GP will actually be able to prescribe you these stronger iron tablets, which, ordinarily you wouldn’t be able to get over the counter.
Once you start taking the tablets you should begin to feel a bit better within about 2 weeks, however it can take up to 6 months of iron supplements to boost your system and allow it to maintain a good iron level.
If you are still symptomatic and feel no improvement after 3 weeks, it is especially important to ask your GP or nurse to re-check your bloods to see if the iron levels are perhaps dropping further. In this instance, if the iron deficiency anaemia is severe, not stabilising or not showing any signs of improvement and the risk to the health of you and your baby is compromised, there is the option of an intravenous iron supplement; alternatively, a blood transfusion may be necessary.
Still Not Sure if You Are Iron Deficient?
Always speak with your GP or midwife if you think you are iron deficient or are at risk of iron deficiency during your pregnancy. It is always better to try to treat low iron levels as early as possible in your pregnancy to reduce any health issues for you and your baby.
Look after yourselves,
With love and best wishes,
The Bamboo Baby Company xx