At the beginning of my second trimester of my pregnancy with my daughter, my midwife called one evening to inform me that my iron levels during pregnancy were bordering on low. At the end of my first trimester, I had gone to a little clinic to have my blood drawn to obtain a routine baseline of my levels. When my midwife received the results of the blood test, she noticed that my iron levels were a little on the low side. She therefore called me one evening to tell me that I had low iron during pregnancy, not low enough to panic but low enough to need to take action. At the same time, my midwife also told me that my low iron levels could have been indicative of a high blood dilution rather than anemia, meaning that I was not anemic but rather just very hydrated at the time that my blood was drawn. However, I decided not to take any risks and agreed to make some changes to my diet.
According to the March of Dimes, low iron levels are a common pregnancy complication because a pregnant woman needs to have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen both around her own body and to her baby. This increased need for and subsequent increased production of blood often results in anemia. Although common, however, low iron levels during pregnancy should be taken seriously. Anemia during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of preterm birth and an increased risk of low birth weight. Both prematurity and low birth weight carry increased risks for the baby.
The two most common solutions for low iron levels during pregnancy include eating more iron-rich foods and a taking a prenatal iron supplement. Therefore, in addition to my regular prenatal vitamin, I could also have taken an additional prenatal iron supplement. Alternatively, I could have added more iron-rich foods to my diet to help improve my low iron levels more naturally.
I was absolutely not opposed to taking a prenatal iron supplement in addition to my regular prenatal vitamin. Prior to conceiving my daughter, I already took a multi-vitamin, a calcium with vitamin D supplement, a vitamin B-complex supplement, and an omega 3 with DHA and EPA supplement. Adding an additional supplement to my regime would have been no problem. However, the plan that my midwife and I initially laid out in an effort to improve my low iron during pregnancy was for me to eat more iron-rich foods. Specifically, I was going to try to include more buffalo in my diet. Buffalo meat is not only low in fat and high in protein but is also extremely high in iron. In fact, a bison burger has more iron but fewer calories and less fat than regular beef hamburger. One of my favorite ways to serve buffalo during my pregnancy was buffalo chili. All I did was substitute some ground buffalo for the group beef. Mmm!
Other foods that I tried to eat more of to improve my low iron levels during pregnancy included dark meat poultry; dried apricots, prunes, figs, raisins, dates; oatmeal and other whole grains; spinach, broccoli, kale, and other dark green leafy vegetables; baked potatoes with the skin; and beans and peas. For example, one night when I was craving meat, my husband browned some ground sirloin and added a little bit of chili powder for flavor for me as a snack. I also told my husband that we would have to go to my favorite local steakhouse more often for one of my favorite meals: filet mignon and a baked potato. Why immediately start taking an iron supplement when I could have just eaten a really good steak?!
Unfortunately, after attempting to incorporate more red meat like buffalo into my diet for about a week, I decided that I should probably take a prenatal iron supplement in addition to my other vitamins. Although I did love a good filet mignon or juicy bison burger with a side of spinach salad or a baked potato with the skin, I simply could not eat as much iron-rich food as I needed to keep my daughter and myself healthy.
I therefore decided to start taking a prenatal iron supplement called Floradix. My doula had recommended Floradix, which is a liquid iron supplement, to me. A friend who also suffered from low iron levels during pregnancy also spoke very highly of her experience with Floradix. Thus, once a day, usually before I head off to work, my husband mixed me a dose of my prenatal iron supplement with a glass of orange juice or some cranberry juice. Although I was skeptical at first, the Floradix tasted pretty good. Plus, the vitamin C in the juice helped my body absorb the iron more efficiently. My daughter also always went wild for all the fruity sugar. She always started moving around like crazy whenever I had a glass of juice!
At my first visit to my midwife after having my blood drawn, my low iron levels during pregnancy had already improved. Throughout the rest of my pregnancy, my iron levels remained on the low side but on the low side of healthy. I continued to take my prenatal iron supplement daily and tried to eat as many iron-rich foods as I could muster. I did end up giving birth to my daughter four weeks early, but she was a respectable seven pounds five ounces at birth. Now, as a breastfeeding mother, I have continued to take an iron supplement (in pill form) as a way to ensure that my iron levels stay high enough for both me and my daughter. Low iron levels while pregnant are a common but easily treatable pregnancy complication.
Did you suffer from low iron levels during pregnancy? How did you ensure that you and your baby got enough iron every day?