Tackle Vitamin B12 Deficiency Post-Pregnancy with These Simple Tips
Keep your vitamin B12 levels at an optimum range post pregnancy to avoid unnecessary health concerns. The right diet, lifestyle, and treatment, as well as regular check-ups to the doctor, can prevent unwanted symptoms that arise from either a deficiency or from having too much vitamin B12.
A woman's body undergoes many changes during pregnancy that even continue post childbirth. Low or high vitamin B12 levels are among the common issues and can be critical for your health if left untreated. Read on to learn its causes, symptoms, and ways to counter them.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency after Pregnancy
Vitamin B12 helps produce red blood cells that circulate oxygen in your body. If the vitamin B12 level range is low in your body, your system starts producing red blood cells that are larger than normal and don't carry oxygen well. So, what causes vitamin B12 deficiency after pregnancy?
Crohn’s disease leads to the inflammation of the digestive tract. It can be treated by surgery, but it affects the absorption of nutrients, particularly vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 is absorbed at the end of the small intestine, in terminal ileum. Thus, removal of the terminal ileum causes vitamin B12 deficiency in the body.
If the stomach lining of your body is inflamed because of a bacterial infection, then you might have atrophic gastritis (AG). AG develops when the parietal cells (which make gastric acid required to absorb vitamin B12) in your stomach are attacked by the immune system. It leads to vitamin B12 deficiency. Lack of vitamin B12 may also cause pernicious anaemia.
Sometimes, you might have vitamin B12 deficiency because of your improper diet. Eggs, meat, fish, and dairy products are the main sources of vitamin B12; a diet devoid of these foods may result in the deficiency of vitamin B12. Vegan and vegetarian women are especially at the risk of being deficient. Non-vegan women who don't consume enough iron are also at risk.
If you are vegan or vegetarian, you don’t get enough of vitamin B12. Moreover, if you are breastfeeding then you may fall victim to vitamin B12 deficiency. Infants who are fed solely on breast milk are at the risk of developing B12 deficiency as well.
Some women may face the opposite problem that is excessive vitamin B12. It is known as Haemochromatosis. This condition can be caused by diseases like Cirrhosis and Hepatitis. Increased levels of vitamin B12 is linked to kidney disease and leukaemia. Cancer of the kidney, liver, breast, GI tract, and some blood cancers may also result in overproduction of vitamin B12. Your doctor can make a diagnosis with the help of blood tests.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency Post-Pregnancy
Lack of vitamin B12 in your body is not given due attention, as the symptoms are common and often ignored. But watch out for these signs, lest it can be perilous for your health. Listed below are the general symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Weakness and tiredness unrelated to physical exertion
Tummy troubles, like constipation and diarrhoea
Rapid breathing, bleeding gums, and pale skin
Weight loss and loss of appetite
Dizziness and breathlessness
Numbness, and muscle weakness
Problem while walking and vision loss
Pins and needles sensation
Smooth and red tongue
If left untreated, B12 deficiency can lead to more serious issues, such as paranoia, cognitive difficulties and hallucinations. Neurological problems may also develop.
However, if your B12 levels are high, you might feel tired and weak, and suffer from joints pain. Weight loss and frequent urination are a couple of other symptoms. In either case, you need to get yourself checked, as both low and high levels are not beneficial for your health.
WATCH: How to Increase Vitamin B12 Levels as Explained by Nutritionist Sushma Jaiswal
Find out here how you can cure low vitamin B12 levels after pregnancy.
Animal products, such as meat, poultry, and fish are the main source of vitamin B12.
Vegetarians can rely on milk products, like cheese, yoghurt, cottage cheese, and curd to increase their vitamin B12 levels.
For vegans, vitamin B12 is available in fortified foods. You can also try synthetic supplements available in the form of injections and tablets.
Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiency on Breastfeeding Women and Baby
Women, while breastfeeding, require more vitamin B12. During pregnancy, the baby exhausts the stored vitamins and after the delivery, the mother might become deficient. When breastfeeding, you share nutrients with your baby and if you don’t reciprocate by following a diet rich in vitamin B12, you put yourself and your baby at risk. Lack of vitamin B12 may make you feel tired and depressed. Nerve problems is also a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 deficiency in babies can hinder their overall development. It affects the growth of their nervous system; some babies become lethargic, anaemic, and have low muscle tone. Other symptoms include vomiting, diarrhoea, enlarged liver and spleen, and retarded growth. You can notice these signs from 6 to 12 months of the age. Besides, babies breastfed by vegan mothers are likely to be deficient. So, breastfeeding mothers should consult a doctor for taking vitamin B12 supplements.
Foods for Women with Low Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient to keep you and your baby healthy after delivery. It is crucial for the proper functioning of your blood cells and to keep the immune system intact. Its natural source are animal products. Hence, if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, you might want to scrounge for options. Here are some foods for women with low vitamin B12.
Animal and Dairy Products
Fish, particularly tuna, sardines, and haddock
Grains and Vegetables
Whole grain breads
Cereals made with whole-grain bran
Treatment for Vitamin B12 Deficiency/Guidelines
Instead of waiting for these symptoms to grapple your immune system, mend your ways to combat vitamin B12 deficiency. Treating vitamin B12 deficiency depends on its causative factors. Follow these guidelines to treat low levels of vitamin B12 and take preventive measures too.
If you have low levels of vitamin B12 because of a poor diet, alter it. Your diet should consist of foods that are rich in iron, like fish, meat, eggs and dairy products to get your B12 levels up. Soy milk is another easily available source if you're lactose-intolerant, vegan or vegetarian. You can also take vitamin B12 supplements on the advice of your doctor.
If the vitamin B12 is not because of the improper diet, then you will have to take vitamin B12 supplements for your entire life. Women with digestive disorders, severe deficiency, or those who have pernicious anaemia will also need regular long-term B12 shots.
Women with elevated levels of B12 can have it reduced with chelation therapy, which involves taking medicines to reduce iron content; and phlebotomy, which is to have your blood regularly drawn.
Don't let low or high levels of vitamin B12 cause problems for you and your child. Get healthy again with the right diet and treatment. Always consult your doctor before taking supplements for vitamin B12 deficiency or if you need to get rid of excess B12.
Now that you know what to watch for, you'll have little trouble staying healthy!