A lot of women have low iron or anemia during pregnancy and don't know it. I have anemia and know it because it's been getting worse. I spent three months taking iron supplements and eating the foods I thought would help, but I still got that dreaded test result phone call telling me that the shortness of breath, heart palpations, twitchy legs and extreme fatigue were because I didn't have enough red blood cells to carry an ample amount of oxygen to all the parts of my body. Hence - I need more iron.
Iron is one of those minerals that is not easy to absorb. In fact, I don't think I was absorbing much at all for the past several months. You can't eat it with coffee, tea or dairy - because all of these will inhibit absorption. Iron found in veggies ( hello spinach...) is very difficult to absorb with out extra help. In fact, spinach turns out not be a very good source at all. It actually inhibits iron absorption! Something I never would have guessed. Here's a list of iron absorption inhibitors:
- Red Wine, Coffee & Tea
- Vegetables: Spinach, chard, beet greens, rhubarb and sweet potato
- Whole grains and bran
- Soy products
I don't think I ever took an iron supplement or ate an iron rich food without one of those things. No wonder I kept getting worse!
These are the absorption enhancers:
- Fruits: Orange, Orange Juice, cantaloupe, strawberries, grapefruit etc
- Vegetables: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, tomato, tomato juice, potato, green & red peppers
- White wine
My midwife has change my supplement dose from 29mg a day to 650mg a day and I'm doing everything I know now to ensure it sticks. I'm really hoping for some more red blood cells to be born soon so I can stop feeling so icky.
To find what foods are good for increasing iron and what foods are not, here's some great lists and information.