If you are like many moms, struggling with low energy can be a challenge during pregnancy. Understanding how to support your body as it faces the increased demands of growing a baby can help you to have a better experience, and improve your recovery during the postpartum weeks. For many moms, the lack of energy is due to low hemoglobin levels, which can be linked to low iron. There are many ways to boost these levels naturally, thus providing your body & baby with the nutrients they both need in order to thrive!
What is Hemoglobin?
In a nutshell, hemoglobin is component of your blood that carries oxygen to your cells. If your hemoglobin count is low, you can experience some or all of the following symptoms:
- Low energy
- General Fatigue
- Shortness of breath (especially after climbing stairs or exerting yourself)
- Heart palpitations
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
How do I find out if I have low hemoglobin?
Having routine labwork performed during pregnancy can tell you where your hemoglobin levels are. In my practice, we often check these levels towards the beginning of pregnancy, and then again after you reach 28 weeks of pregnancy. As you progress in pregnancy, your blood volume expands, preparing you to be able to handle the blood loss that occurs with delivery. For many women, their total volume increases over 25%, and tends to peak by the time you hit the beginning of the third trimester. Testing your hemoglobin soon after 28 weeks tells us how your body has handled this blood volume expansion, and gives us time to really hit support should your levels be low at this point in pregnancy.
What if my hemoglobin levels are low?
If your results are low, my first step is to look at all of your lab results to see if we can get a clue as to WHY they are low. There are a few different types of anemia, and the two most common in my practice are:
- Iron Deficiency: caused by a lack of iron, which can show up as low hemoglobin combined with a low hematocrit ratio on your lab results.
- B12/Folate Deficiency Anemia: caused by a lack of adequate B12 vitamins and folate, and can be indicated by an elevated “mean corpuscular volume” (abnormally large red blood cells) on your lab results in combination with a low hemoglobin level.
In occasional instances, low hemoglobin levels can also happen if a mom bleeds excessively after delivery. This is one of the reasons that it is so important to get your hemoglobin in an optimal place before birth, as it increases the body’s ability to handle blood loss. But if your hemoglobin is low and you need iron support after having your baby, the following suggestions will also pertain to you!
What can I do to bring up my hemoglobin?
Some key factors to consider as you weigh your options for iron and vitamin support:
- Typically natural-based supplements take consistency and time to really be effective. This is why to start helping your body early, as the body will then have time to respond. Many iron and vitamin supports will take one to two weeks to really start working to bring levels up.
- Look for products and options that are whole-food or plant based when possible, as these will cause less constipation and be able to be more easily utilized by your body.
- Pay attention to labels, and stay away from supplements that contain synthetic ingredients. This is particularly key when it comes to “folate”, as you do NOT want the synthetic form called “folic acid”. Due to genetic issues, many women are unable to adequately absorb synthetic folic acid and synthetic forms of B vitamins, which increases the specific problem of B12/folate deficiency anemia. To understand more about folate and the importance of methylated vitamins, check out this article here by Wellness Mama.
Now onto options for increasing iron levels!
Borderline anemia: if your levels are borderline, and you are looking for some general ways to boost your levels and provide more support to your body, these are some great ways to start:
- Use cast iron cookware for cooking.
- Eat foods high in iron (beans, lentils, red meat, liver, spinach, turkey, pumpkin seeds, broccoli, black strap molasses, etc.)
- Increase your vitamin C intake with a high-quality Vitamin C supplement once or twice daily.
- Make sure you aren’t mixing calcium supplements with your iron-rich foods or supplements (they will block the absorption of the other, negating the benefits of either one!)
- Alfalfa Tablets, Moringa capsules & Yellow Dock tincture.
- Drink several cups Red Raspberry Leaf tea daily during the 2nd and 3rd trimesters (and during postpartum as well), or drink several cups of NORA tea daily (a combination of Nettles, Oatstraw, Red Raspberry Leaf and Alfalfa). To learn my favorite recipe for Red Raspberry Leaf, click here or for NORA tea, check out this link.
True Anemia Support: for those who need to seriously boost their hemoglobin levels, here are some additional supplements to consider, in addition to the list above:
Many moms have found this combination very effective at bringing up their iron quickly (combined with some of the above suggestions):
- Liquid Chlorophyll (drink 2-3 tablespoons daily, and 1/4c. daily during the first week postpartum)
- Hemaplex Tablets (make sure it’s these tablets, as they do not contained the synthetic forms of folate)
- Desiccated Liver capsules (grass-fed organic is best)
Others have found the combination of Chlorophyll with one or two of the following to work for them:
- Beet Juice or Beet Root powder daily
- Herbal Iron Supplement such as Wishgarden FortiFE or Mountain Meadow Herbs Herbal Iron
- Gaia Herbs Liquid Iron
For additional information on anemia during pregnancy, I’d encourage you to check out the following links:
And for more suggestions on anemia in general, Aviva Romm has some great suggestions here: Aviva Romm on Anemia
I’d love to hear from you: what has helped to bring your hemoglobin up, and help you have adequate iron levels during pregnancy and postpartum?