NUTRITIONIST AVAANTI DESHPAANDE

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How to improve Hemoglobin during Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time of profound change in a woman’s body, with various physiological adjustments necessary to support the growing fetus. One crucial aspect of a healthy pregnancy is maintaining optimal hemoglobin levels.

Hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body, plays a vital role during pregnancy. Ensuring adequate hemoglobin levels is essential for a healthy pregnancy, influencing the baby’s birth weight and reducing the risk of preterm delivery.

Additionally, low hemoglobin can lead to maternal tiredness and fatigue, impacting the overall well-being of the expectant mother. Severe anemia can also increase the risk of complications during delivery and postpartum. Understanding the importance of hemoglobin and how to improve its levels can help promote a healthier pregnancy journey. 

Normally, hemoglobin levels in a non-pregnant woman should be 12-16 mg/dl. However, due to hemodilution during pregnancy, hemoglobin levels can naturally drop. During pregnancy, hemoglobin levels of 10-11 mg/dl are generally acceptable. It is important to note that while a slight drop is normal, levels below this range can be problematic and require intervention.  Now let us understand what hemodilution is.

A woman’s blood volume increases by about 50% during pregnancy to support the growing fetus and prepare for childbirth. This increase in blood volume leads to dilution, where the concentration of red blood cells decreases, causing a relative drop in hemoglobin levels. Despite this dilution, maintaining sufficient hemoglobin is crucial for several reasons:-

  • Healthy fetal development.
  • Prevention of preterm birth.
  • Optimum maternal health.

Ways to improve Hemoglobin levels

Maintaining or enhancing hemoglobin levels during pregnancy can often be achieved through dietary adjustments and proper nutrition. Here are some effective strategies–

Increase the consumption of Iron-rich foods:

Iron is a crucial component of hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout the body. During pregnancy, maintaining adequate iron levels is vital to support the increased blood volume and the oxygen needs of the mother and the developing fetus.

Dietary iron comes from 2 forms present in foods– heme and non-heme iron.

  • Heme Iron: Found in animal-based foods, heme iron is more easily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron. It is a vital source for pregnant women to help meet their increased iron needs. Sources include- meat, poultry, fish, etc.
  • Non-heme Iron: Found in plant-based foods, non-heme iron is less readily absorbed by the body. However, its absorption can be significantly enhanced when consumed with vitamin C-rich foods. Sources include leafy green vegetables, beans and lentils, sprouts, ragi, Rajgeera, Nuts and seeds, Halim seeds (aliv), etc.

 

While including iron-rich foods in the diet is crucial, optimizing iron absorption is equally important. Here are some tips:

  • Consume Vitamin C-Rich Foods: Foods rich in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes, can enhance the absorption of non-heme iron. For example, adding lemon juice to a spinach salad or having citrus fruit with a meal can boost iron absorption.
  • Avoid Calcium with Iron: Calcium can inhibit iron absorption. It’s best to avoid consuming calcium-rich foods or supplements simultaneously as iron-rich meals. Space them out by a few hours to ensure better absorption.
  • Limit Tea and Coffee: These beverages contain polyphenols that can interfere with iron absorption. Try to limit their intake, especially around meal times.

Vitamin C-rich foods:

 As discussed above Vitamin C is essential for iron absorption. At the same time, it is also necessary for building a strong immune system, for tissue repair and growth, especially collagen, protection from free radicals, and supporting healthy skin. The sources include citrus foods like Oranges, grapefruits, lemons, limes, Amla, berries, bell peppers, etc.

Protein-rich foods:

Protein is a vital nutrient during pregnancy, essential for the growth and development of the baby and the health of the mother. It plays a key role in building the baby’s tissues and organs, including the brain. Pregnant women should aim to include a variety of protein-rich foods in their diet, such as lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy products, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Incorporating these foods helps ensure adequate protein intake, supporting a healthy pregnancy and promoting optimal fetal development.

Folic acid-rich foods:

Folic acid, a B vitamin, is crucial during pregnancy as it helps prevent neural tube defects in the developing baby, such as spina bifida and anencephaly. It also supports the formation of the placenta and the development of the baby’s brain and spine. Pregnant women should incorporate folic acid-rich foods into their diet to ensure sufficient intake.

Excellent sources include leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale, legumes like beans and lentils, citrus fruits, nuts, seeds, and fortified cereals. Including these foods helps meet the increased folic acid needs during pregnancy, promoting healthy fetal development.

Vitamin B12-rich foods:

Vitamin B12 is essential during pregnancy for the development of the baby’s nervous system and the production of red blood cells, which prevent anemia. Adequate B12 levels support proper brain development and overall growth of the fetus.

Pregnant women should include B12-rich foods in their diet to meet these increased needs. Excellent sources include meat, fish, poultry, eggs, dairy products, and fortified plant-based milk and cereals. Consuming a variety of these foods ensures sufficient B12 intake, contributing to a healthy pregnancy and optimal fetal development.

In conclusion, Maintaining optimal hemoglobin levels during pregnancy is crucial for the health and well-being of both the mother and the developing fetus. Ensuring an adequate intake of iron, vitamins, and protein through a balanced diet can help prevent anemia and its associated complications. Pregnant women should work closely with their healthcare providers to monitor their hemoglobin levels and make dietary adjustments as needed. By understanding the importance of hemoglobin and implementing these nutritional strategies, expectant mothers can support a healthy pregnancy and promote the well-being of their babies.

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