Given our high standard of living, it would be a reasonable assumption that the large majority of mothers have high quality diets supplying all the essential vitamins and micro-nutrients.
Unfortunately however, this is not always the case.
Iron deficiency and it’s complication, iron deficiency anaemia, are significant health problems, that can affect up to 25% of Australian women.
Anaemia is a lower than normal level of Haemoglobin (Hb) which is the molecule which carries oxygen to your tissues. Even minor levels of anaemia can leave you feeling tired.
In pregnancy, it can have a negative impact on your baby’s growth.When breastfeeding, it may decrease your ability to feed to the best of your ability.
Your doctor can perform a blood test to assess your Hb, and if this is low, iron levels can be studied. This is almost always done as part of your antenatal care.
The best way to maintain appropriate iron stores and therefore Hb is via your diet. Iron–rich foods include red meats, and to a lesser extent, green vegetables. Both are best taken daily.
If it is found that a mother is anaemic or has low iron stores, this can be remedied with increasing iron–rich foods and iron tablets which come in many forms and are readily available.
I recommend that as part of your normal self–care, and particularity when you are pregnant or breast–feeding, that you check with your health care professional to confirm if your Hb is normal.
While low levels of iron and Hb can be tiring, folic acid is an important vitamin for your baby’s development. We now know that if folic acid is taken BEFORE CONCEPTION, this decreases the risk of neural tube defects. These are errors in the development of the baby’s spinal column.
By having appropriate levels of folic acid, the risk of neural tube defects is decreased by approximately 50%.