In Ayurveda, Garbhini-Pandu (anemia in pregnancy) is described as a pregnant woman becoming weak and pale. The major driver of this (mostly temporary) disorder is the increased need for iron during pregnancy driven by the need for nourishment in her own body, building lactation support and growth of the fetus. While it is broadly defined as a deficiency in iron in western medicine, Ayurveda explains this condition as the presence of one of many of factors such as deficiency in blood, in fat, in Ojas, abnormality in complexion (often causing paleness), or looseness of body parts.
When you are anemic, your body goes into a state of relative hypoxia (decreased oxygen), which then increases creating an inflammatory environment in the body. During pregnancy, anemia can be especially concerning and can often result in preterm labor, postpartum depression, spine or neurological defects (particularly with folic acid deficiency) among many other.
Ayurveda suggests to treat this disorder primarily through a nutritious diet that will promote overall blood and iron production and nutrition absorption in the body. Here are some ways you can begin to prevent and manage anemia in pregnancy:
- Nourish your Tastes (Rasa): While the following foods do not necessarily directly increase iron, they help strengthen Rasa (taste), which, in turn, improves the ability to absorb iron. Grape and pomegranate juice are great to nourish Rasa. Sweet, gently warming spices like fennel seeds, fenugreek seeds, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, saffron or cardamom also nourish Rasa.
- Consume Iron Rich Foods: Walnuts, dates, and almonds can fulfill your body’s iron and protein requirements while seeds such as sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, provide high iron-rich content. Pair these foods with Vitamin C (berries, green leafy vegetables, etc.) to boost absorption and immunity.
- Incorporate Pranayama: Breathing exercises are a great addition to pump your heart, promote circulation and transport nutrients throughout the body. To support oxygenation and prana (life force) in the body, add pranayama (yogic breathing exercises) particularly Brahmari and Ujjayi breathing. See last week’s blog for more details.