I’ve been lucky to have a fairly smooth pregnancy so far. While the (24/7) morning sickness sucked, I never actually puked so I would say I had it easy compared to a lot of ladies.
One thing that has been a concern is my iron levels. I’ve been anemic twice in my life. When I was a teenager I was anemic and had to take iron. Then during the 10 years I was a vegetarian I was anemic as well. Once I quit being a vegetarian my iron levels were fine and they’ve been fine until recently. So for 10 years or so I didn’t have an issue.
Back in October I was feeling really run down and like I was on the verge of getting sick with something. At my monthly OB appointment my doctor checked my blood and I was slightly anemic. I added a daily supplement and my prenatal vitamin has some iron in it, too. I was feeling a little better, less run down, so I assumed I was better.
34.5 – 45.0 %
|37.7||36.1||34.6||33.9 L||32.4 L||32.3 L|
12.0 – 16.0 gm/dL
|12.9||12.3||12.0||11.6 L||10.7 L||10.8 L|
As you can see, my levels have been falling in 2015. The first column is 2012, next was 2014 and the rest were all taken after getting pregnant. I understand the anemia I had this summer because when I was in the thick of the morning sickness and food aversions I stopped eating meat and salad. Both things made me feel sick and just could not stomach eating them. But once I was over that, and eating both again, why didn’t it go back up? I’m not sure.
When I went in for my gestational diabetes test they also tested my iron and I was still low. The doctor said my levels hadn’t had a “significant change” since my last test. Damn!
When you have anemia, your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues and to your baby. It’s normal to have mild anemia when you are pregnant. But you may have more severe anemia from low iron or vitamin levels or from other reasons. Anemia can leave you feeling tired and weak. If it is severe but goes untreated, it can increase your risk of serious complications like preterm delivery. [source] SIGNS:
Pale skin, lips, and nails
Feeling tired or weak
Shortness of breath
Hmmm…I kind of have all of those symptoms. 🙁 I was a little worried about the effects this could possibly have so I asked my doctor what to do and honestly felt a little disappointed because the foods she suggested I add to my diet are already in my diet! She also said this:
1. Make sure to take Vitamin C (ie, orange juice) with your iron supplement as that will make it be absorbed better by your body
2. Increase your iron supplements to taking 1 pill twice a day (morning and night)
3. Increase your dietary iron by incorporating 3-4 things off the of list below into your daily diet
I would pick 1-2 of the things above to help improve your iron levels. Do what would be easiest for you on a daily basis.
She included a list of foods to eat:
IRON RICH FOODS
Increase Intake of Iron-Rich Foods. Include one or more of these foods with every meal:
Lean red meat, liver*, kidney*, heart*, eggs*, dark meat poultry, oysters, clams, shellfish or fish
Dried beans, dried peas, lentils, nuts, or seeds
Dark green leafy vegetables
Iron-fortified breads and cereals
Cooking in cast-iron cookware will increase the iron content of your food.
*These foods re high in cholesterol.
Increase Absorption of Iron-Rich Foods
Vitamin C increases the absorption of iron. Include a vitamin C-rich food or juice with every meal. Vitamin C-rich foods include oranges, grapefruits, strawberries, kiwis, mangoes, papayas, guavas, cantaloupes, tomatoes, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, chilies, and dark green leafy vegetables. This is especially important if you eat a plant-based diet.
Avoid taking antacids or calcium supplements before eating a meal or with an iron supplement.
Limit coffee and tea with meals.
So looking through that list, I already drink a glass of orange juice with breakfast (perhaps this is why I was craving it throughout my pregnancy??), I eat eggs and fish, lean red meat about once a week, dried fruit on occasion (apricots and prunes) and green leafy veggies. I definitely won’t be eating liver or kidney. But I can add beans and lentils to my diet pretty easily. And I think I need to start eating chicken thighs instead of breasts.
What I’m Doing
I already eat eggs almost every day for breakfast. I also pretty much live on Brussels Sprouts and broccoli. That’s a staple in our house. I go through phases where I eat a lot of kale. I buy avocados weekly — mostly for Michael — and I need to be better about eating them. I just forget! Bananas are good but I only eat them once a week or so because the sugar content in them make me crash.
- I’m starting to do scrambled eggs with sauteed kale or spinach for breakfast.
- I’ve added beans to dinner a few times a week.
- Michael bought chicken thighs at Costco recently and I’m eating that instead of chicken breasts.
- Now that my tooth issues are resolved, I can eat more substantial stuff so we added steak back into our weekly meal rotation. (Seen below, tri-tip steak, blue cheese dressing because pregnant, sauteed brussels sprouts with onions.)
- I bought some frozen cod to eat for dinner once a week. We already try and eat salmon once a week.
Here was one dinner I had:
Jasmine rice, peas and carrots, topped with Trader Joe’s Lentils. Lentils are high in iron and this one also had kidney beans in it.
Another dinner was spinach salad with blue cheese dressing, chicken thighs and beans.
I’m doing better incorporating iron-rich foods into my diet but I’m not sure if it’s making a difference. I have an OB appointment in a few weeks and will ask my doctor to test my iron levels again and see if what I’ve been doing has been helping. I’m honestly surprised that with a healthy diet, prenatal vitamins with iron in them AND an iron supplement is still keeping me at anemic levels. It seems weird to me!
What about you? If you fixed your anemia, tell me what worked!