During a routine visit to my obstetrician, I explained to him I was feeling exhausted to the point of wanting to sleep much of the time, and I was having trouble keeping up with my oldest child, who was a toddler. I also had concerns about why I was exceptionally pale even though it was the middle of summer. I had questioned if it was normal for pregnancy to cause my symptoms, because I was feeling much different with this pregnancy than I did with my first. My doctor did a blood test, and the results revealed a very low red blood cell count, to the point that my doctor termed it as ‘severe.’ I was stunned when I was told that if my cell count didn’t improve soon, I would have to consider having a blood transfusion.
After being prescribed an iron supplement in addition to prenatal vitamins, I was given a chart listing iron-rich foods to eat that included raisins, spinach, red meat and beans. I also learned how to make iron assimilation more efficient ; for example, drinking orange juice with an iron supplement enhances iron absorption, while eating dairy products with the supplement will hinder the absorption.
I was also shocked to learn that left untreated, iron deficiency anemia, especially during pregnancy, could pose such significant health risks. Not only to me, but to my unborn child. Without treatment there is not only a higher risk of increased blood loss during delivery, but also; low birth weight, premature delivery, and prenatal birth defects of the brain and spine.
Although it was a very close call, by taking my prenatal vitamins, iron supplements and eating right, I brought about the higher levels of red blood cell count that my doctor and I were hoping for, and I avoided needing any drastic methods of iron replacement.
Iron deficiency anemia is a very treatable condition, and I learned is completely preventable. By including all four food groups in my diet, which I wasn’t doing at the beginning of my pregnancy, I may have avoided the illness altogether. However, I learned a valuable lesson about maintaining good health through eating a healthy, daily diet consisting of all four food groups that I incorporated into my life from that point on.