Monday, June 27, 2011

Low Iron Levels and Constipation during Pregnancy

Why this happens and what can you do to avoid these 2 symptoms.

2 Common Symptoms during pregnancy are low iron levels and constipation, and unfortunately suffering from low iron and supplementing to improve iron levels can make constipation worse!

Low Iron (fe) your ferritin levels
Ferritin is a protein in your body that stores iron.
An average women's diet in the developed world will provide approx. 12mg of iron a day of which 14-20% is absorbed. During your pregnancy you may need up to 30mg of iron a day. Both you and your baby now require more iron due to the extra blood volume needed to support your pregnancy and to help develop and grow your baby.
Iron is essential for making hemoglobin, ferritin is the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to cells. During pregnancy, the amount of blood in your body increases, you have almost 50 per cent more than usual. You need more iron to make hemoglobin for the additional blood that is now required during your pregnancy. Extra iron is required for your growing baby and placenta.

It is quite normal through the 1st half of your pregnancy not to need to supplement your diet with iron. However if you are a vegetarian, athlete or have been diagnosed with low iron levels in the past then you should get your iron levels tested more frequently and make sure your L.M.C knows about your circumstances. Ask them to test you more regularly.
If you are continuously tired, feel week and dizzy, have a more noticeably increase in heart-rate (not just pregnancy related) or have continued dark rings around your eyes then your iron levels could be low. If you think you are low in this mineral talk to your L.M.C don’t just take supplements without a blood test confirming an iron deficiency.

You can increase your daily iron intake by consuming more of the following:

● Red Meat - This is by far the best option for increasing your iron levels
● Dark Chicken meat
● Apricots
● Pine nuts
● Sunflower and pumpkin seeds

During my second pregnancy I was eating red meat 5-6 times a week!
Meat sources of iron are Known as Heme Iron this iron is more readily absorbed into your blood-stream than Nonheme Iron which is found in non-animal based foods. Too much wheat in your diet which contains phytates and lecithin’s can also reduce the absorption of the minerals iron, magnesium and calcium. Phytates block the absorption of these vital minerals.
During your pregnancy you need to change your diet to increase your daily iron intake increase red meat, reduce wheat intake and if you include a vitamin C food such as capsicums, oranges, kiwi fruit and grapefruit with your meals this will help assist the absorption of iron.

If you think you will be more prone to developing low iron levels have more frequent blood tests. I always insisted on at least 2 extra blood tests during my pregnancies. Get to know your iron levels, know the numbers this way you will know as exactly which end of the scale you are at:
Normal Ranges:-
Ferritin: 20-160 ug/1 ( I have been as low as 9 for ferritin)
Iron: 10-30 umol/1 ( I have been as low as 12 on this)

If diagnosed with low ferritin level and you have to supplement with iron try different brands, some brands cause less constipation than others. The liquid formulas usually work the best. When supplementing try to ensure that you go to the toilet daily, maintain exercise, good hydration and healthy eating which can all reduce the chance of you becoming constipated.

A common symptom of pregnancy is constipation. This condition can happen quite quickly and you may start to suffer from this from around 8 weeks.
Factors contributing to this symptom are the pregnancy hormone progesterone which causes your food to pass more slowly through your intestines. Your internal organs move up and to the left of your body making room for your growing uterus but less room for your intestines. Iron supplements can also increase constipation.

Exercise, staying active and hydrated can help reduce this uncomfortable pregnancy condition.

I found that exercising daily really helped me especially walking and running along with my addiction to one cup of coffee a day.

If you are constipated for 1-2 days eat foods that may help alleviate, prunes and kiwi fruit are probably the best. If this doesn’t help along with exercise you may need a supplement there are many brands on the market ‘phloe’ is popular, this is crushed kiwi fruit powder in a tablet and it is great for bowel health and keeping you regular, but you can ask your local chemist to advise. If you are still constipated after 3-4 days then you will have to see your G.P. Try to avoid this with good nutrition, hydration and exercise. This condition can be very uncomfortable, painful and dangerous; you can end up in hospital try to avoid it by doing what you can to prevent it!

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If you feel any pain or discomfort whilst exercising, stop. If pain continues consult you L.M.C or G.P
The information included in this article has been written by Lorraine Scapens: She is not able to provide you with medical advice the information is used as guidelines. You cannot hold Lorraine liable in any way for any injuries that may occur whilst training.

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