Anaemia In Pregnancy

What is Anemia?

Anemia is a condition in which you lack enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to your body’s tissues.

 

Pregnancy related Anemia

When you’re pregnant, you may develop anemia. When you have pregnancy related anemia, your blood doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to your tissues and to your baby.

During pregnancy, your body produces more blood to support the growth of your baby. If you’re pregnant, you’re at increased risk of iron deficiency anemia. 

 

Why does anemia occur during pregnancy?

It’s normal to have mild anemia when you are pregnant. But you may have more severe anemia from low iron or vitamin levels or from other reasons.

Anemia can leave you feeling tired and weak. If it is severe but goes untreated, it can increase your risk of serious complications like preterm delivery.

Here’s what you need to know about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of anemia during pregnancy.

 

What causes iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy?

Your body uses iron to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to your tissues. During pregnancy, the volume of blood in your body increases, and so does the amount of iron you need. Your body uses iron to make more blood to supply oxygen to your baby. If you don’t have enough iron stores or get enough iron during pregnancy, you could develop iron deficiency anemia.

 

Types of Anemia During Pregnancy

Several types of anemia can develop during pregnancy. These include:

Here’s why these types of anemia may develop:

Iron-deficiency anemia. This type of anemia occurs when the body doesn’t have enough iron to produce adequate amounts of hemoglobin. That’s a protein in red blood cells. It carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

In iron-deficiency anemia, the blood cannot carry enough oxygen to tissues throughout the body.

Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia in pregnancy.

Folate-deficiency anemia. Folate is the vitamin found naturally in certain foods like green leafy vegetables A type of B vitamin, the body needs folate to produce new cells, including healthy red blood cells.

During pregnancy, women need extra folate. But sometimes they don’t get enough from their diet. When that happens, the body can’t make enough normal red blood cells to transport oxygen to tissues throughout the body. Man made supplements of folate are called folic acid.

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. When a pregnant woman doesn’t get enough vitamin B12 from their diet, their body can’t produce enough healthy red blood cells. Women who don’t eat meat, poultry, dairy products, and eggs have a greater risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency, which may contribute to birth defects, such as neural tube abnormalities, and could lead to preterm labor.

Blood loss during and after delivery can also cause anemia.

 

Risk Factors for Anemia in Pregnancy

All pregnant women are at risk for becoming anemic. That’s because they need more iron and folic acid than usual. But the risk is higher if you:

  • Are pregnant with multiples (more than one child)
  • Have had two pregnancies close together
  • Vomit a lot because of morning sickness
  • Are a pregnant teenager
  • Don’t eat enough foods that are rich in iron
  • Had anemia before you became pregnant

 

The most common symptoms of anemia during pregnancy

  • Pale skin, lips, and nails
  • Feeling tired or weak
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Trouble concentrating

Symptoms of severe anemia may include:

  • A rapid heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure
  • Difficulty concentrating

 

Keep in mind, however, that symptoms of anemia are often similar to general pregnancy symptoms. Regardless of whether or not you have symptoms, you’ll have blood tests to screen for anemia during pregnancy. 

 

Tests for Anemia

We do the 1st blood test to screen for anemia (Hemoglobin test) during your 1st consultation and it will be repeated should the blood results indicate that you are anemic. You will also routinely be screened for anemia at 36 weeks gestation.

If you’re concerned about your level of fatigue or any other symptoms, talk to your Midwife.

 

How is iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy treated?

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. Your doctor may also suggest that you add more foods that are high in iron and folic acid to your diet.

The doctor may also recommend that you include more animal foods in your diet, such as:

  • meat
  • eggs
  • dairy products

Foods that are high in Vitamin C can help your body absorb more iron. These include:

  • citrus fruits and juices
  • strawberries
  • kiwis
  • tomatoes
  • bell peppers

Try eating those foods at the same time that you eat iron-rich foods. 

Also, choose foods that are high in folate to help prevent folate deficiency, such as:

  • leafy green vegetables
  • citrus fruits and juices
  • dried beans
  • breads and cereals fortified with folic acid

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