Women who are pregnant are at a higher risk of 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. 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, is a medical condition in which there is not enough hemoglobin and red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues in the body.
What Are The Consequences Of Anemia During 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 having a premature baby with low birth weight 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. The most commonly experienced types of Anemia during pregnancy are:
Iron Deficiency Anemia
This is the leading cause 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 due to decreased iron and hemoglobin in the body.
Folate Deficiency Anemia
Folate is the vitamin found naturally in certain foods like green leafy vegetables. Women need higher levels of Folate in pregnancy because it can help prevent neural tube defects. A supplement of 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 B12 deficiency can often be found together. 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. You might be at a higher risk of developing Anemia during your pregnancy if you:
- Are pregnant with more than one baby
- 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 Common Symptoms Of Anemia During Pregnancy?
While mild cases of Anemia may have no symptoms at all, moderate to severe conditions may present 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 cause other than Anemia. It is important to talk to your doctor. 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 diet. 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 prevention. 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 like spinach (palak), radish greens (mooli bhaji), mustard greens (sarson ka saag), turnip greens (shalgam leaves), moringa or drumstick leaves, red or green amaranth leaves (chouli or maath) etc.
- Nuts and seeds
- Beans, lentils, and tofu
Food that is high in Vitamin C can actually help the body absorb more iron, so it is beneficial to make these additions along with iron therapy:
- Citrus fruit like lemons, oranges
- Gooseberries (aawla)
- Bell Peppers (capsicum)
Your obstetrician will also prescribe supplements 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. The doctor may run other blood tests to determine if you have iron deficiency or if there is any other cause for your Anemia.
If you’re pregnant or trying to become pregnant, be aware of the importance of sufficient amounts of iron, folic acid, and Vitamin B12 in your diet. Ask your doctor about your risk for Anemia and make sure you are tested at your first prenatal visit.
Never attempt self diagnosis and follow your doctor’s instructions for taking a prenatal vitamin that contains a sufficient amount of iron and folic acid.