Anemia during Pregnancy
Women who are pregnant are at a higher risk for developing anemia due to the excess amount of blood the body produces to help provide nutrients for the baby. Mild anemia is normal during pregnancy due to an increase in blood volume, however, more severe anemia, can put your baby at higher risk for anemia later in infancy.
What is anemia?
Anemia, also called lack of blood, it a medical condition in which there is not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues in the body and decrease the total amount of red blood cells or hemoglobin in the blood.
What are the anemia consequences during the pregnancy?
Anemia during pregnancy is especially a concern because it is associated with low birth weight, premature birth and maternal mortality. Severe anemia during pregnancy increases your risk of premature birth, having a low birth weight baby and postpartum depression. Some studies also show an increased risk of infant death immediately before or after birth.
What are the types of anemia during pregnancy?
Several types of anemia can develop during pregnancy and the most commonly experienced types of anemia during pregnancy are:
This is the leading cause of anemia in the United States, and consequently, the most common type of anemia during pregnancy. Between 15 and 25 percent of all pregnant women experience the condition.
In iron-deficiency anemia, the blood cannot carry enough oxygen to tissues throughout the body and the body can become fatigued and have a lowered resistance to infection.
Women need higher levels of folate in pregnancy because folic acid can help prevent neural tube defects during pregnancy. Folate is the vitamin found naturally in certain foods like green leafy vegetables A type of B vitamin.
A supplement called folic acid is recommended even before a woman tries to get pregnant because folate deficiency can directly contribute to certain types of birth defects, such as neural tube abnormalities (spina bifida) and low birth weight.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
The body needs vitamin B12 to form healthy red blood cells. If a pregnant woman doesn’t get enough vitamin B12 from her diet, her body can’t produce enough healthy red blood cells.
Folate deficiency and vitamin B-12 deficiency can often be found together and women who don’t eat meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs have a greater risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency.
What are the risk factors for anemia in pregnancy?
All pregnant women are at risk for becoming anemic and you might be at a higher risk of developing anemia during your pregnancy if you:
- Are pregnant with multiples
- Aren’t eating enough foods rich in iron
- Experienced heavy periods before becoming pregnant
- Have two or more pregnancies in quick succession
- Are routinely vomiting as a result of morning sickness
What are the commons symptoms of anemia during pregnancy?
While mild cases of anemia may have no symptoms at all, moderate to severe conditions may present themselves with the following symptoms and signs:
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
It is also important to note that some symptoms can be due to a different cause other than anemia, so talking with your doctor is important and doctors typically perform several tests to check the percentage of red blood cells in your plasma and the amount of hemoglobin in your blood.
How can anemia during pregnancy be treated?
Anemia during pregnancy can easily be treated by adding iron or vitamin supplements to your daily routine. If you are anemic during your pregnancy, you may need to start taking an iron supplement and/or folic acid supplement in addition to your prenatal vitamins. In very rare cases, women with severe anemia may need a blood transfusion.
How can anemia during pregnancy be prevented?
Good nutrition is the best way to prevent anemia if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant. Most women can get sufficient amounts of iron and folic acid during pregnancy by eating the right food.
Examples of iron-rich foods are:
- Lean, red meats and poultry
- Dark, leafy green vegetables (such as broccoli, kale, and spinach)
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans, lentils, and tofu
Food that are high in vitamin C can actually help the body absorb more iron, so it is beneficial to make these additions as well. These include:
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Bell peppers
Your obstetrician will also prescribe vitamins to ensure that you have enough iron and folic acid. Make sure you get at least 30 mg of iron each day.
During your first prenatal appointment, you’ll get a blood test so your doctor can check whether you have anemia. If you have lower than normal levels of hemoglobin or hematocrit, you may have iron-deficiency anemia and your doctor may check other blood tests to determine if you have iron deficiency or another cause for your anemia.
Remember, if you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, be aware of the importance of sufficient amounts of iron, folic acid, and vitamin B-12 in your diet. Ask your doctor about your risk for anemia and make sure you are tested at your first prenatal visit.
Never attempt to diagnose yourself and follow your doctor’s instructions for taking a prenatal vitamin that contains a sufficient amount of iron and folic acid.