Low Iron, or Iron deficiency Anaemia is very common in pregnancy.
This basically means that there is a decreased level of healthy red bloods cells & haemoglobin (Hb) in your blood.
Why is this important?
Well, haemoglobin is responsible for carrying oxygen to all of your tissues in your body, including the heart, the brain, your lungs, the placenta, absolutely everywhere! Iron is used to produce red blood cells, which help store and carry oxygen in the blood. If you have fewer red blood cells than is normal, your organs and tissues will not get as much oxygen as they usually would.
Symptoms of low iron (anaemia)
Tiredness, lethargy, headaches, shortness of breath on little or no exertion. You may feel a rapid pulse, or heart palpitations. It can also affect mental function & cause poor attention span. If you have any of these symptoms, & you haven't had your blood checked in a while, you may want to request a blood test to check your iron level. Some people do not feel any symptoms.
Anaemia is often caused by low iron levels in the diet, but can be worse in pregnancy as the red blood cell levels are 'diluted' by increased levels of of other blood components.
How do I know if I have low iron?
Your midwife will routinely check your blood at the beginning of pregnancy, & again around 28 weeks gestation. One of these blood tests is to check your iron level.
How can I avoid becoming anaemic? or increase my iron levels if I am anaemic. Your doctor may wish to prescribe iron supplement tablets if your iron is low, if very low you would be wise to take these. ( NB: A gentler alternative on the stomach is floradix) However if it is just a little low or 'borderline' you can increase your iron levels more naturally through what you eat.
10 Superfoods to Boost your Iron Levels Naturally:
A powerhouse! A great addition to salads. Or if you're not too much of a fan - wander down the freezer isle and grab yourself a bag of frozen spinach. It comes in handy lumps which you can chuck a handful of into curries, spag bol, chilli, stew & you'll hardly even know it's in there - great for sneaking it into the kids too!
A great source of readily available iron. Meat lovers - no problem, but if you're veggie, don't worry, there's plenty of good plant sources.
Good old beans on toast!?! sling a few into your chilli / spag bol / curry / no one will be the wiser! Otherwise, houmous is a great healthy / guilty pleasure, home made or otherwise.
4. Quinoa (KeenWa)
A supergrain which is rightly deserves it place as a superfood due to its many complex proteins. I keep a jar next to the cooker a sling a handful into whatever i can, pasta, stews, curries etc. Or boil some up with some stock & let cool, bulk up your salad with it.
5. Turkey - Not just for Christmas!
Those who don't like red meat will be pleased to know that turkey is a great source of iron too. A very affordable meaty addition to the diet.
6. Pumpkin Seeds
Toast the whole bag full lightly in a dry pan, then place, ready to use, in an airtight jar next to the cooker and sprinkle into meals or onto salad.
Good old broccoli. Add into pasta dishes, or make broccoli & cauliflower cheese. Not a fan? blend it up in a mini processor and add to sauces, no-one will suspect a thing!
This protein / iron super food can be favoured up however you like. Find it in the frozen isle ready to cook at a moments notice! Goes particularly well in stir fries / thai dishes or simply lightly fried with a little soy sauce in a wrap.
9. Fish - Haddock / salmon / perch / halibut
All great sources of iron - I need no excuse to nip down the chippy for a fish supper!!! Salmon is great in the lunch box too, or whipped up into a lovely pate with some cream cheese & lemon.
10. Dark Chocolate (OH YES!!!)
Needs no encouragement to eat! (must be 70% or more) Other great sources are cacao powder (for a supervitamin /mineral hit) or 100% cocoa powder stirred into milk with a spoonfull of honey - delicious!!
Good iron levels are so important, especially in pregnancy - Make the effort to keep yours topped up and you'll reap the rewards!