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Anemia in Pregnancy; Signs to Watch For

Anemia in Pregnancy; Signs to Watch For

Pregnant woman Anemia in Pregnancy; Signs to Watch ForPregnancy is such an exciting and special time, especially after a long struggle with infertility. It is as important to take good care of yourself and your baby during pregnancy as it was to care for your fertility health prior to conception. Pregnant women can be at risk for certain nutritional deficiencies, so it is key in pregnancy to be sure to eat adequate amounts of pregnancy-supportive nutrients like protein, calcium, vitamin D, folate and iron, etc. Iron is one common nutrient pregnant women are at risk for being deficient in, a deficiency that can lead to anemia, because of the demand for the mother’s body to make more blood. Healthy iron levels in pregnancy are necessary in order for the mother’s body to make blood for her baby.

What Causes Anemia During Pregnancy?

Iron-Deficient Anemia occurs when you don’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body. During pregnancy, blood volume increases by up to 50% to meet the needs of the baby! This increases the mother’s body’s iron needs too. It’s very common for pregnant women to become low in iron at some point during their pregnancy.

Anemia can also be caused by a folate or B12 deficiency during pregnancy. This is typically related to poor dietary choices. Making dietary improvements and using a high-quality, whole food prenatal vitamin containing folic acid (folate) and vitamin B12 can protect you if you’re affected.

Signs You Might Be Anemic During Pregnancy

Look for the following body signs of anemia and work with your Ob/Gyn or midwife if you’re at risk:

fatigue, weakness
dizziness or lightheadedness
shortness of breath
low blood pressure
heart palpitations
frequent headaches
pale skin, lips and nails
brittle nails
trouble concentrating
cold hands and feet

While not very common, severe anemia can increase your risk of pre-term delivery, low birth weight or anemia in your baby, and postpartum depression.

How To Get Iron, Folate and B12 from Food

Pregnancy-related anemia is often easily managed through dietary improvements and nutritional supplements. You may be able to manage anemia simply by increasing your intake of the right kinds of foods. Foods such as:

  • If you like meat: grass-fed beef, organic poultry and liver (chicken or beef) can boost your iron and B12 levels.
  • If you prefer vegetarian foods, good plant sources of iron are listed below and be sure to also include vitamin C-rich foods that aid with iron absorption like oranges, strawberries, broccoli, tomatoes and green peppers…

    dulse seaweed
    pumpkin seeds

  • If you have anemia related to folate deficiency, folate is available through foods like:

    dark leafy greens
    citrus fruits
    Brussels sprouts

  • If you’re low in B12, B12 is only available through animal foods, and in small amounts in seaweed and blue green algae (spirulina). Pregnant vegans may need a B12 supplement to make sure their needs are met.

About Iron Supplements

Your doctor may advise you to take an iron supplement (ferrous sulfate) to reduce anemia in pregnancy. However, for some women, ferrous sulfate can cause constipation, which is another pregnancy problem.

If this sounds like you, an herbal iron source can be considered to support iron levels without causing constipation. A few good choices are: Nettle (Urtica dioica) tea or infusion, spirulina, or Floradix Herbal Iron (with ferrous gluconate, B2, B6, B12 and C).

Note: The RDA (recommended daily allowance) for iron for pregnant women is 27 milligrams (mg) a day. Herbal iron sources and supplements may contain lower milligram amounts, but often they are better absorbed.

Ensure Your Health

Pregnancy-related anemia has risks. Properly managing it can ensure your health and the health of your baby. Including a wide variety of whole foods in your pregnancy diet can certainly help! When looking for supplements, make sure they are first approved for use during pregnancy and always consult with your Ob/Gyn or midwife if you’re unsure.


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  • Anemia During Pregnancy: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment. (2016). Retrieved from:
  • Romm, A. (2016). Herbal Medicines in Pregnancy: What’s Safe and What’s Not? Retrieved from:
  • Iron & Pregnancy: Vibrant Health Comes from Iron Rich Blood. (2016). Retrieved from:

Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN
Dr. Christine Traxler M.D., OB/GYN

Dr. Traxler is a University-trained obstetrician/gynecologist, working with patients in Minnesota for over 20 years. She is a professional medical writer; having authored multiple books on pregnancy and childbirth; textbooks and coursework for medical students and other healthcare providers; and has written over 1000 articles on medical, health, and wellness topics.  Dr. Traxler attended the University of Minnesota College of Biological Sciences and University of Minnesota Medical School,  earning a degree in biochemistry with summa cum laude honors in 1981,  and receiving her Medical Doctorate degree (MD) in 1986.

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