Hemoglobin helps in transporting oxygen from your lungs to the rest of the body (1). During pregnancy, it helps fulfill the oxygen requirements of your baby too.
While there is an increase in the circulating hemoglobin, the overall hemoglobin concentration may tend to drop during pregnancy, especially during the mid-trimester (2). The levels hit the lowest in the second trimester and could result in anemia, which is a cause of concern.
To minimize the risk of anemia, doctors track the maternal hemoglobin levels during prenatal checkups and may recommend natural remedies to improve it. Here, MomJunction lists a few such effective ways that might improve your 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
Reduced hemoglobin could increase the risk of anemia in the mom-to-be. Here is what you could do to improve hemoglobin levels during pregnancy.
- 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).
- 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).
- Foods to exclude from your diet: Eliminating iron blockers from your diet might help in absorbing more iron, thereby improving the hemoglobin count. However, this may be suggested only when your hemoglobin level is too low. A few foods that you may have to avoid include cheese, yogurt, ice cream, milk, tea, coffee, and alcohol (8).
- 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).
- Treatment: In some rare cases, the red blood cells get destroyed more rapidly than they are produced in the body, resulting in reduced oxygen levels for different parts of the body. This condition is called hemolytic anemia (10). Based on the cause and severity of the condition, doctors prescribe either steroids or a medical procedure.
- Stimulation of red blood cells: In the case of chronic diseases, the count of red blood cells drops. In such cases, blood transfusion and erythropoietin are considered for stimulating the body to produce more red blood cells (11). However, you should go for these only when suggested by a medical professional.
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 (12)
Maintaining the right hemoglobin levels is essential for your health and your baby’s health. So be conscious of what you are eating, any changes in the body or behavior that seem unusual, and get the hemoglobin levels checked regularly.
Were your hemoglobin levels low during pregnancy? How did you improve them? Do share your experiences with us in the comments.
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. BNL Blood Drives: Iron-Rich Foods; Brookhaven National Laboratory
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. Hemolytic Anemia; University of Rochester Medical Center
11. Sifakis S et al.; Erythropoietin in the treatment of iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy; Gynecol Obstet Invest. (2001)
12. Anemia in Pregnancy; Stanford Children’s Health