Your expectations are already soaring high, and with it, your dreams of playing with your tiny tot. But there’s a long way to go before your baby can come into the world. You would want to prevent complications in pregnancy so that you can give birth to a healthy baby. Anemia or low hemoglobin count in the blood associated with iron deficiency tops the list of complications that most pregnant women have to deal with.
Anemia is the most widespread yet often neglected condition in pregnant women. Pregnancy is a welcome change for any woman. It is that time of your life when your body and mood undergo a change. You make every possible effort to avoid pregnancy complications, so you and your baby can remain safe and healthy. But anemia leading to the continuous absence of adequate healthy red blood cells may impact your pregnancy in many ways and has the potential to harm your baby.
Let’s see what the causes of anemia in pregnancy are and how you can avoid the risks.
What is Anemia During Pregnancy?
It is a condition in which your body lacks an adequate number of healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin to transfer oxygen to different tissues. The body makes hemoglobin with iron present in the red blood cells. During pregnancy, your body’s need for iron increases. The lack of iron affects oxygen supply to many organs. Anemia during pregnancy causes a few complications, from increasing the risk of premature birth to postpartum depression, maternal mortality, low birth weight, and increased risk of infant death.
Risk Factors of Iron Deficiency in Pregnancy
Most pregnant women are at risk of becoming anemic, as their bodies need more iron and folic acid during this stage.
Anemia during pregnancy is a serious complication. Your risk of iron deficiency increases if you:
- are pregnant with twins or triplets
- do not supplement your diet with iron
- have two closely spaced pregnancies
- are suffering from anemia prior to becoming pregnant
- have a bad morning sickness syndrome and are frequently vomiting
- have a heavy menstrual flow before pregnancy
Symptoms of Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy
In pregnant women, there is more blood production in the body to support the growing baby in the womb. However, your body might not produce enough amount of red blood cells to make blood if you are not getting enough iron or nutrients. Mild anemia during pregnancy is common.
But severe anemia symptoms in pregnancy may occur if your body has insufficient levels of iron or vitamins to produce enough amount of blood for the baby growing inside your womb.
Your body needs an excess amount of blood to supply oxygen to different organs to ensure an adequate supply of nutrients to the baby during pregnancy. When the body lacks sufficient amount of blood supply, you tend to experience the following anemia symptoms in pregnancy:
- Pale or yellowish skin, nails, lips
- Tired, weak, fatigued
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- Irregular heartbeat
- Cold hands and feet
- Concentration problems
A pregnant woman’s body needs high levels of folate. The doctor may recommend folic acid as a supplement even before you try to get pregnant. The water-soluble vitamin is essential to prevent neural tube defects in pregnant women.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
An expectant mother’s body uses Vitamin B-12 to produce red blood cells. However, bodies of some women may not be able to process B-12. As a result, their bodies become deficient in B-12. Often, a woman suffering from folate deficiency anemia also shows symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency. Lab tests can help a doctor diagnose the cause of anemia in pregnant women.
Treatment for Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy
Doctors often prescribe prenatal vitamins that contain iron to treat deficiency of the essential mineral in pregnant women. A pregnant woman’s body needs 27 milligrams of iron per day.
A good diet rich in iron is recommended for pregnant women to prevent anemia. Dietary sources of iron include
- Eggs, poultry
- Animal products, such as red meat.
- Nuts and seeds
- Dark leafy greens, including kale, spinach, broccoli
- Fortified breakfast cereals
A pregnant woman may be required to take iron-fortified breakfast cereals, peas, and dried beans along with plant sources of iron. It is best to pair iron-rich plant sources with vitamin C foods or drinks to enhance the absorption of iron. This includes tomato, kiwi, bell pepper, orange, and strawberries.
Pregnant women with iron deficiency should avoid eating calcium-rich foods while taking iron supplements. This is because calcium can interfere with iron absorption in the body.
Antacids are not recommended in anemic pregnant women, as these can prevent proper absorption of iron. However, if required, you may take iron two hours before an antacid.
In severe cases of iron deficiency anemia during pregnancy, the doctor may recommend intravenous supplementation of iron. In rare occasions, an anemic woman may need a blood transfusion during pregnancy.
After you have delivered your baby, blood volume and plasma will return to their normal level. However, consult your doctor before discontinuing any iron supplements and medications.
Ravneet also blogs at www.wellnessguide.com