During your pregnancy, your body is changing almost daily. Growing a baby is a lot of work, and it affects every part of your body. You may develop anemia or feel exhausted, or both. At BodaHealth, we have a long track record of working with women with these pregnancy conditions, and have the expertise and healing tools to support you if anemia or fatigue become an issue for you.
During your pregnancy, your body needs to produce more blood—enough for you and your growing baby. Anemia is a term used when the number of red blood cells or oxygen-carrying hemoglobin in your blood becomes low. During pregnancy, there are different underlying causes of anemia:
- The most common kind of anemia during pregnancy is caused by an iron deficiency. Your body needs iron to produce a protein called hemoglobin, which carries oxygen from your lungs to every tissue throughout your body. Iron deficiency can be due to a low intake of foods rich in iron, a loss of iron through bleeding or a lack of absorption of iron.
- Folate-deficiency anemia occurs when you don’t get enough folate in your diet or you are not absorbing enough through your digestion. Folate is vitamin B9, and is found in leafy greens, citrus fruits, grains and beans. It’s especially important to get enough during your pregnancy, because folate is crucial in preventing birth defects such as neural tube defects. Folate is also needed to produce new cells, including red blood cells.
- Vitamin B12 is also an important component in making healthy red blood cells, and maintaining proper levels during your pregnancy, which may prevent nervous system defects. Vitamin B12 is found in many foods, but is abundant and best absorbed in animal foods, such as meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs. Non-animal sources include, nutritional yeast, seaweed, and shitake mushrooms.
Many people think of the symptoms of anemia as just being tired and pale, which is true. However, you may also have dizziness, a fast heartbeat, feel short of breath, and even have difficulty concentrating. During your pregnancy, anemia may go beyond just feeling tired, it may leave you feeling exhausted and struggling to get through your day.
Anemia is a health concern for anyone, but when you’re pregnant, it can raise your risk for having a preterm or low birth weight baby, a baby with anemia, a child with developmental delays, or in some cases a baby with birth defects. It may also increase your risk for postpartum depression.
Because of increased demand for iron and folate, all women are at an increased risk for anemia during their pregnancy. However, your risk becomes higher under certain circumstances. This includes being anemic before your pregnancy, being pregnant with more than one baby, having had two pregnancies in close succession, having severe morning sickness (with vomiting), and eating a diet that’s low in iron-rich foods. (https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/anemia-in-pregnancy#1)
The dramatic changes that occur during your pregnancy can flat out make you tired. For most women, fatigue may ebb and flow during different times of their pregnancy. During your first trimester, when your hormones are changing dramatically and your body is making the placenta, you may feel especially tired. During that time, elevated hormone levels may make you feel drained and can cause morning sickness that may also contribute to your fatigue. Tiredness in early pregnancy often abates after your first trimester. However, later in your pregnancy, you may have a resurgence of fatigue, but for different reasons. The size and weight of your baby can interfere with your sleep, cause frequent trips to the bathroom, overload your muscles, and affect your metabolism.
In addition to the changes occurring in your body, other factors in your life can also affect your energy levels. Working long hours, caring for your other children, stress, and diet also play a role in your energy levels, especially when paired with the physical demands of your pregnancy.
Help for Anemia and Fatigue
At BodaHealth, our practitioners have special training and years of clinical experience working with women during every stage of their pregnancy, and we offer a variety of healing practices.
Many of our patients are pleasantly surprised to learn that acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is a very effective treatment for anemia. Research studies have documented that acupuncture can enhance the levels of serum ferratin, which is a measure of your body’s stored iron. The scientists who conducted the studies used just one acupuncture point, called zu san li, which roughly translates to leg three mile. It suggests that when this point is used to boost energy and blood stores, a patient could walk three more li, a Chinese measure of distance.
The stimulation of zu san li can also resolve shortness of breath, heart palpitations, paleness, and fatigue—all symptoms that correspond to anemia. In Chinese medicine, needling of specific points can improve your digestion and bolster other nutrients that help to enhance iron absorption. In addition, Chinese herbal medicine has a deep history of treating blood deficiencies through the use of a variety of herbs combined into formulas. Our Chinese medicine practitioners are well-trained and experienced in the use of these herbs to treat pregnancy-related anemia.
In Chinese medicine, health is based on both having abundant energy, and the ability of that energy to move freely throughout your body. It’s well known that acupuncture increases the circulation of endorphins, which decrease stress, enhances your mood, and relieves pain. For that reason, acupuncture is also extremely helpful in supporting restful sleep, relieving pregnancy-related discomfort, and improving your energy.
To support our commitment to providing you the best natural care possible, our BodaHealth staff also includes practitioners of naturopathic medicine. They are able to test your blood for anemia, as well as any other factors that may be causing fatigue, such as nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, hormone imbalances and toxic substances.
Diet plays an important role in not only treating anemia and fatigue, but preventing it as well. BodaHealth practitioners are able to help you with dietary recommendations that include iron-rich foods, boost those that are high in Vitamin C to increase iron absorption, and choose foods that are rich in folate. Our naturopathic doctors can prescribe high quality vitamin, mineral, and herbal supplements to help you manage anemia and improve your energy.
At BodaHealth, we want you to feel as well as possible during your pregnancy, and that means preventing or treating anemia and having the energy necessary to enjoy your pregnancy. Our staff is dedicated to understanding your unique health needs and providing the personalized care you deserve through every step of your pregnancy journey.