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Anemia in pregnancy — symptoms, prevention, & supplements

Updated: Nov 10, 2019

Anemia is a medical condition in which there are not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues in the body. It is very common in pregnancy and postpartum and is most often due to iron-deficiency.


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Anemia during pregnancy

Anemia during pregnancy is especially a concern because it is associated with low birth weight and premature birth. It is a concern for the birth and postpartum period due to intolerance to blood loss and decrease resistance to infections.

Pregnant women are at a higher risk for developing anemia due to the excess amount of blood the body produces to help provide nutrients for the baby (50% increase by the time of birth). Anemia during pregnancy can be a mild condition and easily treated if caught early on. However, it can become dangerous, to both the mother and the baby if it goes untreated.

Iron — is a mineral found in red blood cells and is used to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, as well as help the muscles store and use oxygen. When too little iron is produced, the body can become fatigued and have a lowered resistance to infection. Many organs and functions are affected.


  • Weakness or constant fatigue (past first trimester)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat Chest pain

  • Pale skin, lips, nails

  • Trouble concentrating Headaches

  • Abnormal irritability/mood swings Cold hands and feet

  • Cravings for non-food items such as ice, dirt, laundry detergent, etc.



Preventing anemia during pregnancy can be as easy as making simple diet changes. Iron-rich foods along with increasing protein to 75g/day can oftentimes be enough to prevent anemia.

Taking iron supplements is recommended in addition to consuming these

foods. Foods that are high in vitamin C can actually help the body absorb more iron, so it is beneficial to make these additions as well. Vitamin C rich foods include Citrus fruits, citrus juices, berries, fruits and kiwis.

On the other hand, calcium taken at the same time as iron intake reduces the absorption of iron, so try to avoid calcium-rich foods such as dairy products at the time of taking your iron supplements or eating iron-rich foods.

NOTE: If you are following a vegetarian or vegan diet, please inform your midwife to ensure your dietary needs are met appropriately to prevent anemia in pregnancy.

Iron-rich foods:

  • Lean red meats and poultry Eggs

  • Dark, leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, and spinach)

  • Nuts and seeds (Be sure you are using all-natural nut-butters )

  • Beans, lentils, and tofu

  • Dried fruits such as raisins, prunes, black cherries

  • Black-strap molasses

  • Pumpkin seeds

  • Oatmeal

NOTE: Soak your beans, brown rice and/or oatmeal overnight, rinse

1–2x and then cook slowly to increase iron absorption!


Midwife Recommended Natural Supplements

(For mild anemia diagnosis)

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This time-tested, non-constipating and well-known liquid iron and vitamin formula helps with iron deficiency. Floradix contains organic iron gluconate, and its easy absorption into the body is enhanced by Vitamins C and B-Complex, herbal extracts and fruit juice concentrations. The special blend of ingredients in Floradix means that it is easy to digest and the unpleasant side effects of many iron preparations, such as constipation are avoided.

We know green-leafy vegetables are good for increasing iron levels, so think of alfalfa and liquid chlorophyll as a compressed green-leafy salad. Liquid chlorophyll comes in plain or spearmint flavors. It is high in iron, magnesium and copper, can help keep the bowel moving regularly and drinking it is a sneaky way to increase hydration. Alfalfa has nutritious levels of iron, along with Vitamins A, D, E, and K. It's a cheap, organic anemia treatment that can be taken in pill form.

This whole-food-based iron supplement is clinically proven to increase iron levels without side effects such as constipation or nausea.  I have not personally used this one in my practice, but I have heard of many mamas who do and have had great success in enhancing their iron levels.

Over-the-counter options

Many physicians use over-the-counter iron supplementation as a first-line in treatment for anemia. They are typically less costly than natural supplements, but in exchange can have some unpleasant side effects such as constipation. Most brands do contain artificial dyes and ingredients, so if you are avoiding those during pregnancy be sure read the ingredients list carefully.

Disclaimer: The information shared in this article is for educational purposes only. The educational content in this article is directed towards HEALTHY, LOW-RISK PREGNANT WOMEN AND THEIR HEALTHY BABY. The information shared is not meant to replace the advice of your doctor or midwife. Medical advice will not be given so please consult with your provider regarding your particular situation.

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