6 Ways To Increase Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy

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The body experiences several changes during pregnancy. Women can experience changes in hemoglobin levels during pregnancy, with an increase in the hemoglobin circulating in the body. The overall concentration of the hemoglobin drops, though.

Hemoglobin transports oxygen from the lungs to other body parts (1) (2). The oxygen requirement of the baby is also met through maternal blood. Many pregnant women are at risk of anemia in the second trimester when the hemoglobin levels are lowest. Doctors may check maternal hemoglobin levels during prenatal visits and recommend ways to minimize the risk of anemia.

Read on to learn more about ways to improve hemoglobin levels during pregnancy.

Ideal Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy

According to the World Health Organization, the hemoglobin levels in pregnant women should be more than 11g/dl in the first and third trimester, and more than 10.5g/dl in the second trimester (2). Low levels of hemoglobin during pregnancy are likely to be associated with low birth weight and preterm birth.

Excessively high hemoglobin could also pose risks, and may not necessarily mean good iron levels, according to research. Therefore, proper care should be taken to maintain the ideal hemoglobin level during pregnancy.

Possible Ways To Increase Hemoglobin Levels During Pregnancy

Here is what you could do to improve hemoglobin levels during pregnancy.

  1. Iron-rich foods in the diet: If your hemoglobin is just below the ideal levels, increase the intake of foods that are rich in iron. During pregnancy, you need 27mg of iron a day (3). To meet that requirement, you may consider including the following foods in your diet (4):

a. Vegetables and fruits: Spinach, parsley, Brussels sprouts, turnips, peas, broccoli, kale, asparagus, cabbage, green peppers, and tomatoes are some sources of iron in vegetables. In fruits, you may eat oranges, apples, apricots, and figs.
b. Dry fruits: Raisins, peanuts, almonds, dates, dry figs, and hazelnuts are good sources of iron.
c. Grains, cereals, and bread: Wheat germ, wheat, buckwheat, millet, barley, oats, and cereals and bread fortified with iron might help.
d. Poultry and seafood: Eggs, chicken, liver, pork, beef, lamb, and seafood such as oysters, sardines, clams, tuna, and shrimp, are good choices.
e. Others: Some other foods that could help you improve hemoglobin levels are coconut, peanut butter, chocolate, and nettle tea (5).

  1. Foods rich in vitamin C: Vitamin C could help in absorbing iron from the food you consume, thereby producing more hemoglobin in your body (6). Some of the sources include cauliflower, green pepper, cantaloupe, strawberries, kiwifruit, tomato juice, and potatoes (7).
  1. Foods not to have along with supplements: Do not take iron blockers along with iron supplements, as they may hinder iron absorption. You may take them after some gap. A few such foods are cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milk, tea, coffee, and alcohol (8).
  1. Medications and supplements: Doctors usually prescribe iron supplements based on your hemoglobin count, your dietary plan, and the trimester you are in. Taking the prescribed dosage of supplements could help in preventing the risk of anemia (9).
  2. Oral or intravenous: Iron supplements can be oral but if the woman is unable to tolerate oral iron, she may be administered intravenously.
  3. Intake of vitamins: It is also important to take vitamins such as vitamin B12 as the deficiency of iron can mask the deficiency of vitamins. The safest way to maintain a healthy hemoglobin level is to follow a healthy diet throughout the pregnancy. See that you are getting proper nourishment from the foods you eat. Also, get your hemoglobin levels checked during regular visits to your doctor.

When To Visit The Doctor?

Low hemoglobin levels may also cause the following signs and symptoms that might need a doctor’s visit.

  • Pale gums and skin
  • Muscle weakness and fatigue
  • Frequent headaches
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Labored breathing (10)

It is essential to maintain optimal hemoglobin levels during pregnancy since low levels can increase the risk of low birth weight and preterm delivery. Taking iron supplements and iron-rich foods can help maintain the required hemoglobin levels in pregnancy. You could also consume vitamin C since it increases the absorption of iron. Also, avoid foods that interfere with iron absorption. Symptoms such as frequent headaches, pale skin, tiredness, labored breathing, or irregular heartbeat may indicate low hemoglobin levels. In such cases, you should seek medical care to manage it.

Key Pointers

  • The ideal hemoglobin levels for pregnant women should be around 10.5 to 13g/dl; otherwise, it could result in preterm birth.
  • Consuming iron-rich foods, fruits, vegetables, medications, and vitamins can help improve hemoglobin levels.
  • Paleness, fatigue, persistent headache, or uneven heartbeat may indicate the time to visit the doctor.

References:

MomJunction's articles are written after analyzing the research works of expert authors and institutions. Our references consist of resources established by authorities in their respective fields. You can learn more about the authenticity of the information we present in our editorial policy.
1. Anemia; U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health (2016)
2. F. M. Tabrizi and S. Barjasteh; Maternal Hemoglobin Levels during Pregnancy and their Association with Birth Weight of Neonates; Iranian Journal of Pediatric Hematology Oncology (2015)
3. Iron Fact Sheet for Consumers; National Institutes of Health
4. Iron; National Institutes for Health
5. Iron in Nettle Tea; Health with food
6. What is iron deficiency?; Intermountain healthcare
7. Vitamin C Fact Sheet for Health Professionals; National Institutes for Health
8. Build Your Body with Iron Lesson Plan for Interactive Nutrition Education Center; Kansas Department of Health and Environment
9. Daily iron and folic acid supplementation during pregnancy; World Health Organization
10. Anemia in Pregnancy; Stanford Children’s Health
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Dr. Sangeeta Agrawal

(FRCOG, MD, DNB, DGO,)
Dr. Sangeeta Agrawal worked in Royal London, St. Bartholomew’s, North Middlesex and Barnet General hospitals in London. Currently, she runs her own clinic in Mumbai. She is also attached to Bhatia Hospital, Breach Candy Hospital, Wockhardt Hospital, and Global Hospital. Her areas of expertise include obstetrics and gynecology, involving teenage care, antenatal, intrapartum, post-natal care, painless labor, fertility control, menopause... more

Dr Bisny T. Joseph

Dr. Bisny T. Joseph is a Georgian Board-certified physician. She has completed her professional graduate degree as a medical doctor from Tbilisi State Medical University, Georgia. She has 3+ years of experience in various sectors of medical affairs as a physician, medical reviewer, medical writer, health coach, and Q&A expert. Her interest in digital medical education and patient education made... more