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Vegetarian, Anaemic and Considering Eating Meat in PG

(24 Posts)
edeluna Thu 02-Dec-10 13:24:25

Wondering if there are any vegetarians here who are struggling with low iron levels and the dilemma of whether or not to introduce meat to your diet during pg.

I've been vegetarian for twenty years and am usually borderline anaemic when I have my blood tested. Now that I'm pg, I'm officially anaemic and have been taking ferrous sulphate since mid-October. Had another blood test last week and my levels are still too low. I eat a very healthy diet (tonnes of pulses, leafy greens, beetroot, etc) and am keeping away from all the things that can inhibit iron absorption, but nothing seems to be helping.

I've started wondering if I may need to introduce a small amount of meat into my diet for the rest of my pg. It would be a huge change, but I feel like I'm doing everything else that I can and it's not working. So I'd love to hear from other vegetarians who have had the same problem and made a decision whether or not to start eating meat.

I know this can be a hot topic, so let me just add that I'm not looking for a philosophical debate on the good vs evil of meat eating. As I said, I've been veggie for twenty years. Back then, I may have waved a PETA flyer in your face, but I now believe it is possible to have meat in one's diet in a way that is mindful, ethical and humane ... it's just not something I've personally wanted to do. So I'm not looking to debate, just looking for others who've faced the same dilemma. Thanks!

grumpybrusselsprout Thu 02-Dec-10 13:33:47

Hi Edeluna
I was in a very similar situation and started using Spatone sachets after my midwife recommended them. They are iron rich water sachets that you pop in a glass of orange juice. I took 2-3 a day and it really made a difference. Much easier to absorb that the ferrous sulphate, and not constipating either!
There is also a liquid supplement called floradix which is vegetarian, but I have not tried that.
I also took some flaxseed oil tablets from Holland and Barrett as was concerned about getting enough omega.
Am now breastfeeding and taking Omega for Vegetarians which also has a multivitamin in which is an Asda own brand tablet.
Congratulations BTW! grin

RamblingRosa Thu 02-Dec-10 13:42:24

I agree with the above re. taking spatone. They really do sort you out.

I'm vegetarian (in fact, I was vegan at the time) and I too was anaemic during pregnancy.

However, literally everyone I know who has had children suffered anaemia during pregnancy. Actually the only person I know who didn't get anaemic is a vegetarian. I have one friend who is a meat eater who became very severely anaemic and she was eating steaks almost every day as well as lots of other iron rich foods like spinach, dried apricots, dark chocolate (there is a silver lining ) etc.

My point is that if you want to eat meat because you fancy eating meat then do. But don't eat it because you think you need to for your health.

Get yourself some Spatone too. You can get it in Holland and Barratt and larger Boots shops.

Oh, I've tried floradix too. I think I prefer spatone.

ckny1 Thu 02-Dec-10 14:07:34

Congrats, Edeluna! I'm not a vegetarian though similarly anaemic (and prefer not to eat meat too often), so I don't see why you couldn't continue being healthy w/o it!

I had low iron before pregnancy (am 25 wks), but have been taking Pregnacare Plus (not sure if it's considered veggie-friendly b/c of the omega/fish oil), and my bloods came back perfect, which was shocking! I'm not trying to sell Pregnacare, by the way, but think of it as a miracle supplement as we were trying for a year and I'm 40yo...

One thing about iron absorption (apologies if you already know this) is to ensure that you have it at the same time as something with vitamin C (like the concept of the iron sachets grumpybrusselsprout mentions above). So if you are eating beans, spinach,... be sure to accompany it with slices of orange, lemon, or grapefruit for a new consistency in your salads , or just drink the juice of those fruits at the same time. Actually, I think I now know every restaurant in London w/ freshly squeezed grapefruit juice as it's become my new obsession (I'm having cravings for pink foods, for some reason!)

Good luck with everything and take care!

oh4goodnesssake Thu 02-Dec-10 14:11:14

I'm vegan and the MW has just advised me to eat apricots and marmite. I've had 2 healthy pregnancies before so can't think that I would need to change my diet this time. Although I am not eating much soya this time as there's controversy around this now so have been a bit concerned about calcium.

TrailMix Thu 02-Dec-10 14:19:27

I'm veggie but never had a problem with anaemia during pregnancy. If you're following a good diet and even taking supplements and still having low levels of iron, go see your GP, just to rule out other causes of anaemia (of which there are many!)and to get some suggestions.

You probably already know all this, but.. calcium can inhibit iron absorption so try to have your iron with a Vit C food and never with milk/cheese/yoghurt.

Floradix is great stuff, by the way!

And if you want to try meat, go right ahead. People eat loads of crazy stuff while they're pregnant, and if it solves your problem, then do it and don't worry. The veggie police won't get you, I promise! grin

TRL Thu 02-Dec-10 14:22:00

Hi there,

I was strictly vegetarian for 14 years before my first pregnancy, so FWIW:

DC1: maintained healthy veggie diet throughout plus took floradix on midwife's recommendation - severely anaemic throughout and for entire period of breastfeeding (9 months) + after;
DC2: thought I'd eat fish once/week so I got more protein in case that helped. It didn't - severely anaemic;
DC3: at about 5 months, thought it might be a good idea to eat meat once/week + more fish - still severely anaemic.
DC4: ate meat most days from day I found out I was pregnant - fantastic iron count in blood every time!

Should add I had hyperemesis with 1 & 3, foul sickness with 2, but only constant nausea with 4 - don't know if iron count was better because of less sickness or if meat made iron count + sickness better.

Not much help, eh?! grin

lucy101 Thu 02-Dec-10 14:30:44

Spatone is brilliant (and always seems to be on Boots 3 for 2).

I take two sachets a day but not near tea/dairy. You should also take it with orange juice or something else with Vit C in if you can to maximise absorbtion.

I ate fish and much much rarely meat before I was pregnant. I have tried to eat more meat but I really don't fancy it (and am not sure if it will really make a difference to be honest).

TooImmature2BMum Thu 02-Dec-10 14:43:08

My stepmother was vegetarian and started to eat meat when pregnant with my little brother (this was 2001, so not sure what vitamins/supplements were out there at the time) to make sure she was getting enough iron etc. 9 years on, she's never gone back to a strictly veggie diet! I think, don't beat yourself up about it. Better to be in the best health you can during pregnancy and breastfeeding (if that's what you plan to do).

lilly13 Thu 02-Dec-10 14:59:04

Hi Edeluna! Congratulations! I am not a vegetarian, although I do not eat any kind of meat and very rarely eat poultry (just don't like it). I eat fish, though. I tried to force myself eating these products during pregnancy and it is just very very difficult. I don't even feel like having fish, and a lot of foods turn me off. My diet is approx 80% vegan (mostly raw fruit and veggies). Definitely, try eating new foods, but don't worry if you cannot....

I had a discussion with a lead obstetritian and he told me not too worry if my bloods are ok. He said that the baby is "like a parasite" and will take all he needs from me. I take a pre-natal vitamin complex by viridian and try to make sure that i consume plenty of foods rich in iron and folate. I have read a nutrition book and have listed some of these for you below:

potatoes, beetroots,shiitake mushrooms,pumpkin,avocado,spinach, asparagus, nettle, watercress, endive, cauliflower, kale, broccoli, savoy cabbage, rocket, apricots, passion fruit, lemon, orange, grapefruit, blueberries,raspberries, cranberries, hazelnuts, cashews, brazil nuts, pine nuts, almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, sessame seeds, oats, bulgar wheat, quinoia, brown rice, beans, lentils, chick peas, soya beans, mangetout, peppermint, garlic, mustard seeds

edeluna Thu 02-Dec-10 15:12:57

Thanks, everyone. I'll definitely look into spatone (had never heard of it before today) and if there's still no improvement when I get retested at 28 weeks later this month, I'll revisit the issue. Hoping I can manage without meat, though.

I spoke with a midwife earlier and she actually said that Floradix (which I 've taken in the past) doesn't really have much iron in it. This surprised me since my GP recommended it in the past and I've always thought of it as a good supplement. I looked at the box and the 20ml recommended daily dose only has about 15mg of iron. I'm on 400mg of ferrous sulphate now (no problems tolerating it, luckily), so in comparision, Floradix doesn't look that potent. Perhaps if you're looking to sustain iron levels it works fine, though.

I really appreciate hearing all your comments and experiences, so thanks again!

AlbaDeTamble Thu 02-Dec-10 15:16:36

Hi Edeluna, another veggie here, have been for more than 20 yrs. My iron dropped a bit low mid-pregnancy and spatone (2-3 sachets a day, with smoothies) worked a treat. I am also taking floradix now as this gets rave reviews too. No adverse constipating effects with either.

Word of warning on trying meat -- I did a few years back when borderline anaemic, thinking it would help me (as you say, mindfully, organic etc) and it did my gut no good at all, it seems I simply can't digest it any more. That wouldn't be much fun to go through whilst pg, so if you do decide to try, take it a tiny bit at a time. I'd definitely try spatone and floradix first. Good luck!

lilly13 Thu 02-Dec-10 15:17:52

Edeluna, try also making fresh grape and pommegranate juice - quite rich in iron!

Lotta123 Thu 02-Dec-10 16:39:36

I'm a veggie and don't eat that well when it comes to iron. However, my doctor is really impressed with my
iron levels. They were 14.something and now they are 12.something. I'm convinced it's because I take pregnacare.

Bunbaker Thu 02-Dec-10 16:46:32

One other point is to make sure you don't drink tea with a meal or within half an hour afterwards as it inhibits iron absorption.

grumpybrusselsprout Thu 02-Dec-10 16:50:28

AFAIK, 400mg of ferrous sulphate is not 400mg of dietry iron so not sure if you are comparing like with like.

lala21 Thu 02-Dec-10 18:26:30

I was on prescribed ferous sulphate and got bunged up, now being 31 weeks and in my previous pregnancy. I've now been on the liquid iron floradex and it seems to be helping.

FWIW I have eaten meat all my life and my iron levels still dipped now....

I hope you don't mind me saying that it might not be that you need to eat meat.But eat it because you want too not because you feel you have too. I think anaemia is very common in pregnancy it might just be about finding ways of managing your diet, and managing what you eat.Sounds like you're doing well its just a bit annoying when levels are still low.

Def cut right back on caffeine as that inhibits all iron level absorption.

So sorry if this is not very useful just want to say don't feel guilty or bad either way just do what you think is right and coming from a meat eater whose sister is a vegan and has never suffered anaemia its one of those weird anomalies that sometimes can't be explained.

japhrimel Thu 02-Dec-10 19:26:12

I'm also veggie with a not perfect diet and have had no issues at all with anaemia, so it may not be the real reason anyway. All I've done is take a general prenatal supplement throughout.

I'd definitely check that you're not having your supplements or iron rich foods with anything that inhibits absorption and look into a more tolerable supplement. If you're taking in that much iron and your levels aren't improving, I'd say it looks like you're not absorbing what you're taking in that well, so maybe look at that before trying to add in more iron from meat.

mrsbigw Thu 02-Dec-10 19:50:40

Hi, you're probably already doing this but if not are you having fresh orange juice or other high vitamin c at same time as iron rich foods to aid absorption?

Also, I agree with alba, be careful with your digestion if you do eat meat as it is pretty hard to get used to especially the red meat which I am assuming you would be trying to eat. Good luck, low iron really can make you feel poop so let's hope you are better soon.

RamblingRosa Thu 02-Dec-10 20:50:46

Re. the quantities of ferrous sulphate thing. I think that the iron that you get in iron pills is actually quite hard for the body to break down. It causes constipation for a lot of people which probably isn't what you want when you're heavily pregnant!

Spatone (and I think Floradix too, but I'm not sure) has a different form of iron in it (is it obvious I'm not a scientist grin...hopefully someone will come along and help me out here as I'm clearly out of my depth!) which is more easily absorbed by the body and doesn't cause constipation.

MumNWLondon Thu 02-Dec-10 23:32:02

Spatone worked for me, had it twice a day in orange juice at least 45 mins away from other meals. First week took 3 a day.

Iron went up pretty quickly from borderline aneamic to normal. Worth a try before the meat.

see also: ands/spatone/spatone/absorption-tips/

Shallishanti Thu 02-Dec-10 23:49:41

never ate meat, took floradix, was fine
but when pg with twins I ate white fish, really craved it, I figured I needed protien in a more concentrated form, felt OK because it seemed an exceptional situation

moirasings Fri 03-Dec-10 03:42:08

I did start eating meat during pregnancy with DS after 10 years of being vegetarian. Actually didn't help - I don;t think I ate enough! But I think as long as you avoid factory farmed meat and look out for SPCA labelled meat it is fine. I can't eat beef now I am pregnant again because it gives me heartburn!

WriterofDreams Fri 03-Dec-10 09:25:02

I just want to add another vote for Spatone (they should put Mumsnet on commission!!). I'm a meat eater but I've suffered for ages with anaemia and spatone is the one thing that really works because it's natural iron. It's little sachets of iron-rich water from a spring and it tastes absolutely foul but if you have it in juice (which has the positive side effect of helping you to absorb it) it's not too bad. It's pretty pricey but well worth it.

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