Second + Third Trimester Nutrition: Managing Anemia and Heartburn During Pregnancy

At Nine Naturals, we firmly believe that everything that goes on and in your body during pregnancy can impact your health and your baby’s health. We are excited to announce that we have teamed up with registered dietitian and nutrition expert Samantha Lynch to bring you a 3-part Pregnancy & Nutrition Series, focusing on nutrition for every phase pregnancy! 

As your body changes during pregnancy, it’s common to find yourself reacting differently to foods you have eaten your whole life. Something you’ve always disliked all of a sudden becomes mouthwatering, your weekly Chinese takeout becomes unbearable to digest or you might find yourself feeling weak and constantly craving red meat. Iron deficiency anemia and heartburn are two pregnancy symptoms that are quite common during the second and third trimester. Fortunately, with a proper diet you can help to manage these symptoms. Here are some tried and true nutrition tips:

Common Pregnancy Symptom: Iron deficiency anemia

Iron deficiency anemia is common during pregnancy because iron is essential in forming new blood cells. During pregnancy we make 50 percent more blood volume; therefore, our iron requirements are increased. Although many prenatal vitamins contain added iron, vitamins alone may not be sufficient.

Signs of Anemia: Feeling tired and weak, shortness of breath, cold hands and feet, brittle nails, fast heartbeat, restless leg syndrome, pica (term used to describe the intense craving for – and eating of – non-food items, such as soil, clay, ice, etc.).

Nutrition Tips To Increase Your Iron:

  1. Take a prenatal vitamin with 30mg iron.
  2. Cook iron-rich veggies such as spinach and kale with a cast-iron skillet can actually boost their iron content.
  3. Increase your intake of animal protein as it contains “heme” iron – absorbed by your body more readily than plant-based, non-heme iron. Some recommended servings include:
    • Heme Iron per 3-ounce serving: Lamb: 1.85 mg, Sirloin steak: 1.75 mg, Chicken breast: 1 mg, Salmon: 0.5 mg
    • Non-Heme Iron per 1 cup (Vitamin C rich food + Iron-rich foods = increased absorption of the iron): Cooked spinach: 6.43 mg, Fortified instant oatmeal: 3.96-6.8 mg, Cooked Swiss chard: 3.95 mg, Dried apricots: 3.46 mg, Dried figs: 3 mg
    • Vitamin C-Rich Foods to Pair with per 1 cup: Raw bell pepper: 118 mg, Cooked Brussels sprouts: 97 mg, Strawberries: 89 mg, Mango: 60 mg

Common Pregnancy Symptom: Heartburn

More than half of all pregnant women report symptoms of heartburn during their 2nd and 3rd trimesters. It is believed that the changing hormone levels during pregnancy affect the muscles of the digestive tract.  The uterus, which protects your baby, rapidly grows up and out. This pushes your stomach and other surrounding organs around to accommodate your growing bump. When this happens the contents of your stomach are more likely to push through your lower esophageal sphincter, which is located at the bottom of your esophagus and the top of your stomach. I like to think of the lower esophageal sphincter as a small door that prevents the flow of acid from your stomach back up the esophagus. During pregnancy the hormones cause it to be more relaxed, allowing stomach acids to splash back up the esophagus.

Signs of Heartburn: Chest Pain, difficulty swallowing, burning in the throat, burning feeling in the chest.

Nutrition Tips to Manage Heartburn:

  1. Avoid the following foods: Black pepper, Caffeine, Chili and Chili pepper, Chocolate, Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruits, Deep-fat fried foods, Garlic, Spicy, Tea, Mint oils (as found in breath mints, chewing gum, mouthwash, or toothpaste), Peppermint, Tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, ketchup.
  2. Avoid large meals (have 5-6 mini-meals throughout the day instead of 3 large ones)
  3. Avoid tight fitting clothing.
  4. Try not to bend over and forward. Crouch down in a squatting position instead.
  5. Avoid lying down within 90 minutes of a meal.
  6. Prop yourself up with pillows while on your left side.
  7. Chew food well and relax while eating.

The great news is that if you didn’t have heartburn before pregnancy, you will likely be heartburn free after you give birth. If you are still struggling and not getting relief, please discuss with your OBGYN.

Samantha Lynch, MS, RD, CDN, is a registered dietitian who caters to everyone from engaged couples, pre-post natal woman, athletes, celebrities to students and stay-at-home moms. Based in Manhattan, she holds a Master’s Degree in Clinical Nutrition from NYU. After graduating in 2009, she started her own nutrition counseling practice to fulfill her dream of helping people live longer, happier and more energetic lives without compromising their social schedule. Samantha has been featured as a nutrition expert in Cosmopolitan Magazine, Refinery29,, The Daily Meal, & OK TV and was also featured as herself in a national Boost commercial airing in both the US and Canada. Samantha is an active member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and Greater New York Dietetic Association. She lives in Manhattan’s Union Square with her husband Roger, 3 year old daughter Lucy, and Baby #2 is due July 2014.