By Deidre M. Medina, LMT, CBE
What is anemia?
There are a few kinds of anemia in pregnancy.
Pregnancy-related anemia when your blood has too few red blood cells which in this kind of anemia is due to the increased blood volume during pregnancy.
Iron deficiency is due to mother not having enough red blood cells stores to match the babies use of the mother’s red blood cells for its growth and development. This is the most common type of anemia in pregnancy.
B-12 deficiency is when there is a low level of B-12 which is important for making red blood cells and protein. If you are a vegan mom, you may find yourself with this type. It is found in eggs, milk, poultry, meat.
Folate deficiency can inhibit the production of red blood cells. It is a B vitamin that is water soluble. Folic acid is the synthetic version of folate and is not as easily digestible and folate. You can find folate in dark leafy green vegetables, beets, Brewer’s yeast, liver, etc. It is a common deficiency because the modern diet of processed foods, though supplemented with folic acid, it is not easily usable as the folate found in fresh unprocessed foods. Your baby needs this to prevent birth defects of the brain and spinal cord.
Using Food as Medicine
Nutrition is most important in pregnancy. Food can be used to prevent deficiency and to balance any deficiency in mild cases. If you are in need of iron-rich foods, then you can look to dark leafy greens, beets, legumes, beans, kelp, meats, poultry, liver and more. For iron to be absorbed well, vitamin C rich food should be paired together or supplementing with vitamin C. Cooking in an iron skillet helps increase the iron in your meal. A favorite plant based supplement for iron that I took for all three of my pregnancies was Floradix (I am not affiliated with them) or if you are gluten sensitive their Floravital. It is an herbal iron supplement that is non-constipating.
There are foods and supplements that can inhibit the absorption of food. The use of antacids or other alkalis will diminish iron absorption. These are sometimes commonly used in pregnancy if you are affected by heartburn. Coffee and black tea can inhibit absorption as well. Calcium can inhibit iron absorption so it is important to try avoid taking a calcium supplement at the time of iron supplement or with your iron-rich meal. Iron absorption is a slow process and takes about 2-4 hours for the body to absorb iron so you could take iron supplement at separate meal time than your calcium.
Folate-rich foods that can boost your folate spinach, kale, beet greens, beets, chart, organ meats, brewer’s yeast. Bean sprouts of mung bean, lentils, and soy are really good sources of folate. B-12 can be supplemented with a sublingual B-12 or shots every three months during pregnancy.
Eat Well, Be Well
So the pattern as you can seen for a well-nourished pregnancy is eat to well-balanced meals. Make sure your meals are mostly fresh whole ingredients. Eat less processed foods. It really pays to understand nutrition and how it affects your pregnancy and your baby’s health. Learn, have fun with it, ask for help. Eat well, be well.
Sources: https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?ContentTypeID=90&ContentID=P02428 Staying Healthy with Nutrition by Elson M. Haas, M.D.