Dietary Guidelines to Prevent Iron deficiency anaemia in Pregnancy

Pregnancy is a time when a new life is created within a mother's body. All the energy, protein and nutrients needed for the creation and development of this body are to be supplied by the mother's body. When these needs are not met, deficiencies occur which affect the mother's health and indirectly that of the growing baby.

Most of these deficiencies are not seen in the first trimester. But they set in the second trimester and are manifested in the third trimester. One of the biggest deficiencies seen is iron deficiency anaemia. This is a very serious condition as the mother's haemoglobin level drops making her feel weak, tired easily, low appetite and sleepy. During the last trimester a mother need to be active so that there is good circulation and blood supply to the foetus.

Being active in the third trimester helps in making the delivery normal and easy. Most important however is that the foetus has a good iron store built up as there is no iron intake during the first three months of life after birth. Normally all doctors prescribe an iron supplement by the fourth or fifth month and a Hb test must be taken in the beginning of the seventh month so that if the Hb level is low then additional supplements may be prescribed. The diet however has the greatest impact. A big cause of iron deficiency is skipping meals or unbalanced meals. Pregnancy is a time when we want to pamper ourselves and we may eat the wrong food and skip meals.

In the last four months of pregnancy cut out all fatty foods or just have a bite if you must eat them occasionally. Concentrate on eating the right things in the right balance and nourish your body and lay a solid foundation for the body of the little life with in you. Rice is a poor source of iron, so eating rice or rice items at all three meals must be avoided. Whole wheat is high in its iron content so eat that every night for dinner as atta roti ,dahlia (broken wheat) or whole wheat bread . At lunch rice may be eaten but try to vary your breakfast with cereals, oats, ragi porridge, ragi roti or ragi dosa - stuffed chapatti or whole wheat bread instead of only rice items. The next good source of iron is dhals and pulses. Try to eat at least half cup dhal or pulses at both lunch and dinner daily.

Eggs, fish and other non veg items are good sources of iron and may be eaten at breakfast or lunch as often as possible. The egg must be fully cooked half boiled eggs or fried eggs where the yolk is not fully cooked should not be eaten as it is not digested and can also cause salmonella infections.

Plenty of fresh salad and fruit is a must as vitamin B and C helps to increase the absorption of iron from the food. Eat a salad with both lunch and dinner. Also eat two to three fruits daily. Palak and greens are rich in iron but have an inhibitor that prevents its absorption and are therefore not considered a good iron source. However greens are good sources of vitamin B, C and folic acid.

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