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Increasing Iron – Pregnancy Fun!

After my 28 week midwife check up on Tuesday, I received a phone call to tell me that my HB levels were low.

Low. I don’t know how low or what this means as I didnt get a call from a medical professional who wanted to discuss this with me. I just had a message from a receptionist with the ‘update’ and notification that a doctor had left me a prescription for iron tablets (Ferrous Sulphate) at the surgery.

Is it me or is this really bad practice? I haven’t met this doctor before, she knows nothing about my pregnancy, any related ailments I have or my feelings on medication. She hasn’t explained my levels to me or what they mean but she has prescribed me tablets that by all accounts are likely to leave me with some horrible side effects and feeling generally yuk. She also feels it’s appropriate to do this and ask somebody with no medical training or ability to answer my queries to notify me, like it is a done deal and I should just do as I’m told.

As you can probably sense, I won’t just be doing as I’m told without research and consultation!

I am not against medication but I am against not being able to ask questions that enable me to weigh up the pros and con’s for myself. I am having a Whooping Cough jab on Monday so will be asking the nurse to provide me with more information about my levels then which will enable me to make a fully informed decision.

I have however in the meantime contacted my midwife plus two private midwifes I have done Natal Hypnotherapy with, all of whom have said my levels are very unlikely to be at a stage (especially as I’m suffering no symptoms) where I cannot try and control them through diet initially and then if necessary resort to medication later.

They also provided me with the following advice;

– It is normal and healthy for HB to go down as pregnancy progresses, especially once in the third trimester.

– You aren’t at any greater risk of having a big blood loss if your iron level is low, it is just that if you do, you won’t cope with it as well.

– Side effects of Iron tablets are common and can include abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, heartburn and nausea.

– Taking spatone twice a day will improve your levels as will increasing iron rich foods in your diet. Red meat, poultry, leafy green veg, beans, pulses, dried fruit, eggs, fortified wholegrain cereals and bread plus include lots of vitamin C rich foods/drinks with meals as this helps iron absorption. 

– Avoid drinking tea around meal times as tannin blocks iron from being absorbed.

– Avoid high levels of caffeine, calcium, wholegrain cereals (although wholegrains are a good source of iron themselves, they contain phytic acid, which can stop your body absorbing iron if too much is consumed) and soya as all can prevent effective iron absorption.

– Vitamin B12 is also needed to absorb Iron, not in your gut at the same time like with Vitamin C but to make chemicals that are part of the Iron uptake process (i.e. you can have it anytime in the day). It’s in dairy, eggs and marmite or you can get vitamin pills.

– You need stomach acid to absorb B12 so make sure you’re not taking antacids/heart burn relief around the time you’re eating your source of B12.

I have also looked at natural supplements myself and today, in Sainsburys I found this…

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It isn’t cheap, this pack is normally £10 but was on offer at £7.50 today. I think it will be worth it though and should last me about 3 weeks as a 10g serving provides over 340% RDA of Iron and 1120% of B12.

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It is by a company called Bioglan Super foods and can be added to food easily, so I have ditched the morning coffee (probably already should have anyway!) and have started having a green smoothie instead.

Today’s Iron boosting breakfast smoothie contained:
1 banana
Handful of frozen berries
1/4 avocado
200ml Orange juice (fresh, not from concentrate)
Handful of spinach
1/4 Cucumber

This made two portions and I then added a heaped teaspoon (approx 5g)of green powder to each. I’m not going to lie, it tastes like pond water but I just drank it with a straw quickly! I’m going to play around with different ingredients and look at adding things like peanut butter and agarve nectar to make it slightly more appealing but I figure 30 seconds of enduring the drink is better than 11 weeks + of tablet side effects!

My plan now is to have one of these for breakfast everyday, to make sure I have red meat, chicken and/or eggs every day plus plenty of green veg and pulses and to swap caffeinated drinks for herbal teas. My midwife has said she can then retest me at 34 weeks which still leaves us time to take medicated action if completely necessary.

All of this info plus some personal stories have really helped me relax and feel confident I can take control of this without needing to medicate straightaway.

I know it probably seems as though I am over reacting but as I’m planning a second home birth I feel it especially important I’m in the best health possible and feel quite strongly that my medical care should be a discussion between myself and a professional not just an unexplained prescription left at a desk and if the NHS is struggling financially why are doctors offering prescriptions first if other options are available?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and any Iron boosting tips!

6

Coppafeel

I always look forward to Mondays and reading about the week of my favourite Mummy blogger Giovanna Fletcher via her article for OK Magazine. This week even more than normal it’s topic really resonated with me. 

Boobs and Coppafeel!

Her promotion of the charity and lighthearted article about an emotive topic inspired me to share my story and why I’ve been a bit quiet lately.

The last few weeks have been difficult for my little family, I’ve never visited hospitals so much (Ted was even delivered at home) and I’ve certainly never felt so scared.

Finding a lump was scary.

Being a mummy and finding a lump was really scary.

Being a pregnant mummy and finding a lump was really scary and very confusing.

My husband would be the first to tell you I’m an internal hypochondriac. I worry myself crazy, I attack Dr Google with every symptom and situation possible and I lie awake worrying, eventually with embarrassment I confess my obsessive behaviour to him, we laugh at me together, he reassures me and I calm down. It’s happened before and no doubt it will happen again but this time it wasn’t about the scab on my foot that hadn’t healed properly or the pain in my shoulder that probably wasn’t indicating hidden internal bleeding, this time it was a lump in my left boob.

I found the lump about three months ago, I grazed it as I was getting ready for bed on a Friday night, obviously on a Friday, leaving me to stew and obsess until I could get a doctors appointment on the Monday morning.

The doctor was lovely, she checked me out, could feel what I could but told me she wasn’t worried. The lump was mobile and showing no danger signs, however she told me to wait until a different point in my cycle and return again to be rechecked in two weeks. I did as requested, returned two weeks later and was rechecked – nothing had changed but she still was unconcerned and seemed slightly surprised to see me, despite my attending on her instructions.

About a month later I discovered I was pregnant, I went to the doctors to start the ball rolling on all my antenatal bookings and saw the same doctor. She remembered me and my lump and after completing all the pregnancy admin asked both about it and how I felt about it. I told her the lump was still present and if anything slightly larger (possibly from being repeatedly poked by me though!) I also confessed I was nervous about it being present during pregnancy and the inevitable changes in my boobs meaning it was going to be difficult to monitor it, she offered to refer me for an ultrasound just so I could be reassured all was well – I was really grateful for this opportunity as I knew without seeing inside nobody could be 100% sure and that the niggle of doubt in this hypochondriac’s mind would always be present. She prepared me I may have to wait up to 17 weeks as she was marking me as non urgent but that generally appointments came through in four to five weeks – mine arrived within two, which was great.

I went along to my 2pm appointment alone, I felt Rich was much better at home with Ted rather than ‘Family Green’ traipsing to the hospital and Rich chasing Ted around the waiting room as he showed off his newly acquired walking skills (yes, that’s right – he’s finally mastered life on 2 feet!) The consultant and nurse that welcomed me were lovely, friendly and chatty and put me at ease. The consultant felt the lump easily and the proceeded to throughly scan my whole breast – she couldn’t really see anything apart from some slightly thicker tissue and she felt this was a bit unusual, I was told the registrar I was booked to see in a couple of weeks time wouldn’t be happy with these inconclusive results and would want a biopsy done, as they had time there and then they decided to perform one straightaway. It was fine, it wasn’t painful at all – a bit of a weird sensation at times but not painful. Say what you like about the NHS but they sure as hell did me proud that day, all that care and thorough attention and I was still back in my car by 2.18pm!

And then came the wait…my results appointment was a fortnight after the biopsy and in all honesty those two weeks felt like an eternity. My little brain was running on overdrive, 

Surely they’d call if they found anything serious? 

What if it is bad news? 

What about Ted? 

What about the baby? 

How would we cope? 

It’s nothing. 

It’s going to be bad. 

I’m being silly. 

I’m preparing myself.

Come on brain, calm down – patience has never been a strength of mine!

Yesterday was my appointment, finally. I am very relieved to tell you that I was given the all clear, they believe it is just fibrous tissue and fully discharged me, said it may go away but it may not. Either way, unless it grows a lot or becomes painful don’t worry just go away and hopefully I’ll never see you again was pretty much the message.

I cried when I came out of the room as I hugged my boys, big relief filled tears.

I know I’m lucky my results were clear but my Dr Google research tells me that over 80% of breast lumps are perfectly innocent so please, if you find anything unusual don’t be too scared to get it checked as there’s a large chance everything will be OK and if it’s not, the earlier it is identified and treated, the better. 

I’m pleased I have been scared into ‘copping a feel’ regularly and making sure I know what is normal for me. I also feel so grateful that when changes happen I’m lucky enough to have medical professionals around me that will take me seriously and thoroughly check out my concerns.

Thank you Gi and Coppafeel for raising awareness and Thank you NHS for looking after me.

Go Go Go Ladies…have a grope and make sure you know what’s ‘normal’ for you.

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Let's end on a high...here's the little dude showing off his newly acquired skills in the garden! 🙂

The Dad Network