True story: I had my 24 week OB visit with the gestational diabetes test and other bloodwork on a Friday. I had a dentist appointment the following Monday. My OB called with my lab results the same day as the dentist appointment. Which is why my husband looked so confused when I told him that evening that I do not have gestational diabetes but I do have mild anemia. He started at me for a minute and said “The dentist told you that?”
Now that we’ve gotten past the husband-embarrassing portion of this story out of the way, let’s focus on the anemia part. Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy is sooooooo common. I had it with my first, as well, and I was just kind of waiting for it to strike again. I’d been suspecting it for a while because I felt so freaking tired all the time. What anemia is, basically, is not enough red blood cells, which means not enough little couriers in the bloodstream to get oxygen where it needs to go. It’s caused by low stores of iron in the body, iron being what makes red blood cells. Considering that the baby is taking its iron share first AND pregnant women have 40-50% more blood that usual, it’s no wonder that the iron reserves get depleted easily!
Luckily, for most women, the fix is an iron supplement (check with your doctor before taking one). My doc recommended an over-the-counter supplement of iron sulfate. I picked a slow release variety in the hopes that it would reduce my risks of one of the more common side-effects of iron supplements: constipation. (Woohoo! Not.) I also have to remember to leave an hour between taking the iron and Tums because the calcium in Tums interferes with iron absorption.
Food is another way to get iron and it’s actually easier for the body to take it in that way than through supplements so upping the iron-rich food intake is a smart idea too. For some women this means steak-fest (one friend told me her midwife suggested steak twice a week to keep her iron levels up). But…I…don’t like meat. I’m not a vegetarian. I’m just a picky eater. Fortunately, there are a lot of non-meat options for getting more iron. Here are a few of my favorites!
For more iron rich foods, check out the American Red Cross’s suggestions.
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