Well Rounded Birth Prep

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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Guest post: How Amber prevented anemia & hemorrage through healthy diet

My BabyFit Success Story by Amber DeGroff

first posted Thursday, April 15, 2010 at 1:31pm

My First Pregnancy

My husband and I found out we were expecting our first the day after Christmas [2007], 4 months after we were married during our last year of college. I was so excited to be a mommy right away! I drove over to campus during winter break to hunt down all my professors to tell them because I couldn't wait until the spring semester to start! ...but right away I felt horrible. I didn't know what was wrong with me. I could barely stand up without feeling dizzy or shaky. A week after our good news I started bleeding what I thought was pretty heavily. We went to the ER and thankfully everything was well (no signs of miscarriage), except I was severely dehydrated. After I stopped bleeding and was re-hydrated, I was free to go home, but I was already starting to swell badly from water retention and couldn't figure out why (once classes started) all the walking around campus wasn't enough exercise to help control it. That was the hardest semester of all.

I quickly grew so fatigued that I simply could not get out of bed to make it to class and the problem only grew worse and worse. Finally, blood work confirmed what I suspected...I was pretty anemic and still a bit dehydrated. They started me on iron pills and I lived on spinach and roast and drank so much water a day it would make me sick, yet I never felt any better. I finished the school year, so glad to not "have" to get out of bed anymore and looking forward to relaxing all summer.

By this time, I started to really gain weight badly (once I gained 6lbs in a week) and tried to walk in the evenings but I could not stand up more than a few minutes at a time. My feet were severely swollen so that they ached constantly and nothing that I read to help never seemed to make any bit of difference in my energy level. I knew I was still anemic, but I didn't know what else I could do about it. I spent half the summer staying with our parents because I was no longer able to take care of myself. I lay on the couch, read, and slept because that was just about all I could do. Finally, with one month to go and having developed PUPPPS, I gave up. If my CNM labeled it "normal pregnancy fatigue" after voicing my concerns repeatedly, then I'd just have to be miserable for the next month and pray that everything would end well.

It didn't. The night before my due date, suddenly my body's energy switched on! I'd never felt so great my entire pregnancy and I just knew it was because labor would start soon and my body would need all the energy it could muster. At my last prenatal appointment the next afternoon, my CNM told me that I was having regular contractions and asked if I wanted checked. I told her no because I honestly didn't even have a clue that anything was going on! I didn't even feel the slightest pressure at all. So we shrugged it off, but a few hours later my water broke and active labor started immediately afterward. I labored for 6 hours and my wonderful, big, chunky son was born! I was so glad because I thought that all my horrible anemia was finally over, but it was just the beginning.

I started hemorrhaging badly. I was so weak and my blood pressure so low the first day of my recovery that I couldn't elevate my bed at all. I couldn't lift my arms more than a few inches. I couldn't hold my son. I didn't know how I was still alive, but I was finally sent home (after 3 days) with a bottle of iron pills and told that I needed to take 3 pills a day! Still, it took 3 months before I could really get out of bed. My son was 6 months old before I stopped having dizzy spells. At 9 months postpartum, I finally started feeling like I was getting my energy back and I was determined that I'd never go through that again! I began researching frantically about herbals and other natural means to dealing with anemia and postpartum hemorrhage.

My Second Pregnancy

I had lost all my baby weight plus 20 lbs (thanks breastfeeding!) when I noticed that I missed my period. My son had just turned 13 months old. I didn't want to believe I was pregnant again; I didn't feel ready yet. I denied it for 2 months, but once some extremely light nausea started hitting me I could deny it no longer. After all the research I had done I was convinced that having a home birth midwife was just what I needed...someone who had a few clients and could therefore really help focus on my health concerns and be completely supportive to the idea of letting me birth my way without any interference. I knew that since my pregnancies were fairly close together I was at a higher risk of a repeat of my first pregnancy, but this I was certain would be vital to preventing anemia and hemorrhage again. It was Christmas time once more when I made that first phone call and instantly fell in love with the first lady on my list of midwives in the area!

I knew this pregnancy would be vastly different. I didn't even "feel" pregnant until I was able to feel those little baby wiggles around 18 weeks along and even then it didn't really sink in. I just wasn't exhausted, swollen, or nauseated at all! Was this what "normal pregnancy" really felt like? I told my midwife my long story in all its detail and together we poured over my medical records from my first pregnancy to figure out just what happened and how we could better prevent it from happening again. She cared! I was so happy! Right away I started on an herbal combination with loads of iron and other blood-building properties to build a good supply of iron and blood clotting agents. This was my first step in preventing anemia and hemorrhage from happening again.

I continued my research on a better, balanced diet and the benefits of exercise and joined BabyFit at the suggestion of my sister-in-law to help me keep track of it all. I knew that my body would absorb the natural iron from food better than those iron pills so this was vital! It took a few months to adjust my diet just right, but I finally worked out how to provide my body, my growing little one, and my nursing toddler with all the nutrients we needed. Wow! What a lot of hard work, but it's been totally worth it! I have the energy to exercise in the mornings and chase after my crazy toddler all day...well, most days! Plus, I'm gaining just the right amount of weight and hardly have any water retention...even at night.

I have learned to listen to and trust my body. If it's not feeling well, it's not and I need to step up my game a little (and sometimes a lot). For instance, a few weeks ago I started noticing I was dragging a little more and becoming slightly paler. This discouraged me at first because I had been working so hard, but I also knew that entering my third trimester would bring a greater demand upon my iron supply since baby would start building his/her own. I scheduled a blood test to see how my total blood count was holding up and to see just what sort of a fight lie ahead of me. I was encouraged to find that it wasn't nearly as bad as with my first pregnancy! Everything was normal, but just barely within range. This confirmed to me what I had thought all my first pregnancy: that "normal" for me is on the high end of the scale. So once again, I set about adjusting my diet to get more nutritional bang for my caloric buck. With a few suggestions from my midwife, I'm back in business. I have two months to go until I'm a mommy to two little ones and am a completely different person than I was two years ago.

This pregnancy has had it's other many ups and downs...I've had 4 colds, 2 battles with the stomach viruses, and an ear infection (among other stresses) that has gotten me off the feeling-great train...but overall I feel so incredibly better that there truly are no words to describe it! I'm now totally convinced that there is nothing that a proper diet and a little exercise can't fix...or at least help prevent...and BabyFit has played a major role in making that happen. Thank you for this website! It has been such a blessing! Everyone comments on how great I look this pregnancy and I have confidence in myself that I never had before. I AM able to take control of my health. I AM able to make a change for the better. I CAN live a life with the energy to care and serve my loved ones as I desire to and I don't have to settle for anything less!

Part 2, Amber's intense homebirth story with baby #2, can be found here. Amber is my sister-in-law, and I'm honored that she shared her story for my blog. (How cool is it that I got a niece and a nephew a week apart!)

For more information on helping prevent swelling, pre-eclampsia/toxemia/PIH and HELLP, see Dr. Brewer's site. A pregnant mother needs a minimum of 75-100 grams of healthy protein every day. Using a free site such as babyfit.com can be useful for its free meal tracker database that allows you to estimate how many grams of protein, iron, and other nutrients you have consumed in a day. Amber's experience may be different than your experience. Her story and these links are not to be misconstrued as medical advice. Research it for yourself, ask your care provider, etc.

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