Iron is necessary for pregnant women. They need to have an adequate intake of it for a healthy pregnancy. It is advisable to discuss the intake of iron with the doctor.
One can expect a healthy pregnancy in case the iron levels are rather sufficient. When pregnant it is important to ensure twice the amount of iron as one did before pregnancy. Why so? The body makes use of iron to make extra blood for the baby. Iron is usually meant to prepare hemoglobin which helps red blood cells to store as well as carry oxygen around one’s body. In case there is not sufficient iron in our blood, the tissues and organs in the body will not be receiving as much oxygen as usual which is not good for you or your growing baby.
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The RDA for iron in non-pregnant women is 14mg/day. This does increase to 27mg/day in pregnancy. Low iron can lead to anemia which is associated with preterm delivery, low birth weight, and infant mortality.
* In case of being pregnant with more than one child.
* In case of pregnancies close together.
* If a person is vomiting due to morning sickness/hyperemesis.
* In case of pregnancy with insufficient iron stores.
* If one has had a heavy period prior to pregnancy.
At the booking appointment, the midwife will be testing the hemoglobin (Hb) in the blood. Then proper advice will be given as to how much iron-rich foods need to be increased or to take supplements. As one’s pregnancy progresses and the hemoglobin levels decrease, it is possible that a person may develop symptoms of anemia. Symptoms of anemia are dizziness, fatigue, and shortness of breath, pale skin and gums, rapid heart rate, poor concentration. If one faces these symptoms, it is better to inform one’s midwife or doctor so that the hemoglobin can be tested again. It may be required that the intake for iron supplements may have to increase.
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There are two dietary forms of iron.
* Hem iron: found in animal foods only.
* Non-hem iron: found in plant and animal foods.
Iron from hem iron is better absorbed than non-hem iron.
Hem iron (animal)
Oily fish e.g. salmon, mackerel
Green leafy veg e.g. cabbage, spinach, kale.
Beans, barley, and lentils
Diet alone may not be sufficient to increase iron levels. Supplementation may also be necessary. The midwife or doctor will advise what supplements to take and how much to take. Iron supplements can no doubt upset the digestive tract causing constipation, nausea, heartburn. Another harmful side effect is a dark stool. In order to relieve symptoms of constipation, increase fiber foods such as whole-grains, fruit, and vegetables, drink prune juice and increase water intake. In the case of tolerating iron supplements, it is better to inform the midwife or doctor.
* It is better to have a varied diet of iron-rich foods.
* Also intake of vitamin C rich foods at the same meal such as citrus fruits, leafy greens, and peppers which aid iron absorption.
* Avoid tea and coffee 2 hours either side of meals. The tannins in tea decrease the absorption of iron.
* Eat calcium foods e.g. dairy separate from iron foods as both compete for absorption.
Having good iron stores can indeed reduce the likelihood of needing a blood transfusion following birth. Iron supplementation for pregnant women should always be individualized as the needs of each respective pregnant woman varies.
It is advisable to speak to one’s health care provider prior to taking supplements.
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