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Table of Contents > Articles > Nutritional and Herbal Therapies for ...
Nutritional and Herbal Therapies for Anemia During Pregnancy

Anemia, characterized by a decrease in red blood cells, leads to symptoms of tiredness, lightheadedness, paleness, headaches, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations and chest pain. Occasionally, pregnancy may lead to the development of anemia. Most cases of anemia in pregnancy are due to a lack of iron in the diet. The good news is that anemia during pregnancy can often be treated with nutritional or herbal support. Be sure to consult your doctor about any complementary or alternative therapies you wish to try.


All of these nutrients play a vital role in the health of a mother's blood:

  • Iron. Pregnant women need three to four times more iron than normal. Dietary sources of iron include liver, kidney, lean red meat, poultry, fish, oysters, and shellfish. It can also be found in dried beans, fruits, and green leafy vegetables, although iron from these sources is not as easily absorbed by the body. Dried fruits, dark molasses, whole-grain and enriched bread, and cereal are frequently fortified with iron. Supplements are also available; however, too much iron is toxic. Only take iron supplements if it is advised by your physician.
  • Vitamin C. This vitamin can help with iron absorption. Doses up to 1,000 mg three times per day are considered safe and effective. Note: Taking over 6 g per day is not recommended. This can cause a baby to develop rebound scurvy in response to the sudden drop in daily intake after birth.
  • Vitamin B12. This nutrientcan be found in organ and other meats, milk, eggs, fish, and cheese. Pregnancy slightly increases your body's need for B12—from 2 to 2.2 mcg per day. (Note: breastfeeding mothers should get 2.6 mcg.) This increase can generally be obtained through small to moderate changes in your diet.
  • Folic acid. This nutrient is found in liver, lentils, brewer's yeast, soy flour, black-eyed peas, navy beans, kidney beans, spinach, lima beans, whole wheat, and asparagus. Commercial grain products are fortified with folic acid as well. It's important to note that folic acid may be lost from food when it's stored at room temperature for an extended period of time or during food preparation by boiling or heating. Folic acid supplementation is another alternative (note: studies show that the amount of folic acid needed to prevent certain birth defects is more easily attained through supplements than diet alone). Folic acid supplements should always include or be taken with B12.

Herbal Medicine

The following herbal remedy may be helpful:

  • Blackstrap molasses, also known as pregnancy tea, is a good source of iron, B vitamins, and minerals. Use 1 tablespoon of dried herb per cup of hot water; steep 5 to 10 minutes for dried leaves or flowers, 10 to 20 minutes for dried roots.


Integrative Medicine Access: Professional Reference to Conditions, Herbs & Supplements. Newton, Mass: Integrative Medicine Communications; 2000.

Review Date: April 2000
Reviewed By: Integrative Medicine editorial

Copyright © 2004 A.D.A.M., Inc

The publisher does not accept any responsibility for the accuracy of the information or the consequences arising from the application, use, or misuse of any of the information contained herein, including any injury and/or damage to any person or property as a matter of product liability, negligence, or otherwise. No warranty, expressed or implied, is made in regard to the contents of this material. No claims or endorsements are made for any drugs or compounds currently marketed or in investigative use. This material is not intended as a guide to self-medication. The reader is advised to discuss the information provided here with a doctor, pharmacist, nurse, or other authorized healthcare practitioner and to check product information (including package inserts) regarding dosage, precautions, warnings, interactions, and contraindications before administering any drug, herb, or supplement discussed herein.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
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