Sunday, 22 September 2013

Hazards to a Pain Free Labour - 3

Haemoglobin or iron levels for a non-pregnant woman are 11.5 to 16 g/dl. In pregnancy, your blood is diluted to make it thinner so that it gets in and out of the placenta easier, clever. Even with this haemodilution, which is normal, your iron levels should not fall below 10.5 g/dl. Iron tablets are not routinely given in pregnancy unless there is a history of anaemia or you have symptoms (feeling very tired, breathless or dizzy). Not everyone can tolerate the tablets and often just stop taking them. This means that when you go into labour your oxygen carrying capacity is reduced and as discussed in Why labour hurts 2, this will cause the contractions to become painful.
To avoid this complication you need to keep your levels up. A blood test is taken at booking at around 12 weeks gestation, this will tell your midwife if you need iron. An alternative to the iron tablets is to have the iron in liquid form. Your doctor may not want to prescribe this as it costs more than the tabs but you have to insist, it is much easier to digest.
When I had my fourth baby I was a vegetarian, so thought I should take extra steps to ensure good iron levels before the birth for a pain free labour. From the time I found out I was pregnant I had 1 small spoonful of black strap molasses three times a day with meals. At first I found it too thick and sticky but soon got used to it and after a while really enjoyed it. My iron levels stayed at 12 throughout the pregnancy and I was able to have a wonderful pain free labour at home.
According to research, we get 90% of our iron from fruit and veg, so to optimise iron levels it would be prudent to change your diet to include extra of these for the pregnancy. We only get 10% of our iron from meat cos it is bound up in animal red blood cells so is harder to get at.
Tea and coffee stop us from absorbing the iron in our food so should never be taken with meals, orange juice or some other drink rich in vitamin C should be drunk instead. Iron supplements taken without vitamin C will not be absorbed so always take them with a fruity drink.
Ask your midwife for a check on your iron levels at 28 weeks when haemodilution is complete, the result will give you a good idea of how you have been affected. It also gives you time to get your haemoglobin to a decent level before you go into labour. Broccoli has never tasted so good.

Pain Free Labour books now available from Amazon.

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