Your body undergoes significant changes during pregnancy. It is interesting to know that the amount of blood in the mother’s body increases by about 20 to 30 percent during pregnancy. In turn, the body needs more iron and vitamins to make hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to other cells in your body.
However, many women experience iron deficiency in the second and third trimesters of pregnancy. If your body needs more iron than is available, you may have anemia. Of course, mild anemia in pregnancy is normal due to increased blood volume. But more severe anemia needs to be followed up and may put your child at risk for anemia.
In addition, if you are significantly anemic in the first two trimesters of pregnancy, the risk for premature birth or having a low-weight baby increases. Anemia also increases the risk of bleeding during childbirth and may reduce the mother's resistance to infections.
Symptoms of Anemia in Pregnancy
Iron deficiency anemia in pregnancy can cause weakness and fatigue. These signs of anemia in pregnancy are very common and cannot be eliminated completely, but it is important to understand the risk factors, symptoms, and measures you can take to prevent anemia in pregnancy. Some of these symptoms include:
- Pale or yellowish skin
- Irregular heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Chest pain
- Cold hands and feet
However, keep in mind that the symptoms of anemia in pregnancy are often similar to the general symptoms of pregnancy. Regardless of whether you have any symptoms, be sure to have a blood test to screen for anemia during pregnancy. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about the level of fatigue or any other symptoms.
If you are pregnant, you will inevitably be at risk for iron-deficiency anemia. The blood cells in a patient with iron deficiency anemia, are not healthy enough to carry the right amount of oxygen to their tissues. Therefore, if you have the following conditions, consider monitoring the symptoms and preventing iron deficiency anemia more than before, because you are at the greatest risk of developing pregnancy anemia.
- You have had two close pregnancies
- You are pregnant with more than one baby (twin or multiple)
- You often vomit because of morning sickness
- You do not get enough iron
- Menstruation before pregnancy was heavy
- You had a history of anemia before pregnancy
Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy Causes
To produce hemoglobin, the human body uses iron. As mentioned, hemoglobin is a type of protein used in red blood cells. The task of these cells is to carry oxygen to various tissues in the human body.
During pregnancy, you need twice as much iron as you do before it. Human body needs this extra iron to produce more blood, so it can supply the required oxygen to the fetus. If you do not have enough amounts of iron stored in your body or do not get enough of it during pregnancy, you may develop pregnancy anemia.
How does Anemia affect the Fetus During Pregnancy?
Severe anemia during pregnancy can lead to a higher risk of preterm birth, low weight at birth, and postpartum depression. The results of some research show that the risk of infant death immediately before or after birth increases in women with anemia.
Risks of anemia in pregnancy
Severe or untreated iron deficiency anemia and pregnancy are associated with the following:
- Premature birth or low birth weight baby
- Need for blood transfusion (in case of heavy bleeding during childbirth)
- Postpartum depression
Causes of anemia in the baby
- Delay in child development
- Premature baby or low birth weight
- Severe birth defects of the brain and spinal cord (neural tube defects)
- Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency also increases the risk of neurological disorders.
How to prevent and treat Anemia in Pregnancy?
If you are taking an iron supplement during pregnancy and you are anemic, your doctor may recommend a test to determine other possible causes. In some cases, you may need to see a doctor who specializes in treating blood disorders (hematologist). If iron deficiency is diagnosed, a higher dose of iron supplementation is recommended by your doctor. If you have a history of gastrointestinal surgery or your body is unable to absorb oral iron, you may need a shot of iron supplement.
Prenatal vitamins usually contain iron. Consuming iron-containing vitamins during pregnancy can prevent and cure pregnancy anemia. In some patients, your doctor or midwife may prescribe a separate dose of iron supplement. You need a daily dose of 27 mg of iron during pregnancy.
Good nutrition, packed with iron-rich foods, can also help you prevent anemia during pregnancy. Some dietary sources of iron are lean red meat, fish, and poultry. Iron-rich breakfast cereals, plum juice, dried peas and beans are also other sources of iron.
Iron present in animal products like meat is easily absorbed. To better absorb iron produced from plant foods and supplements, combine them with foods or drinks that contain vitamin C, such as tomato juice, orange juice, or strawberry juice. Eating foods in such combinations can compensate the iron needed in your body.
If you take the iron supplement meds with something like orange juice, avoid calcium-fortified types. Although as an essential nutrient for pregnant women, calcium can reduce iron absorption.
Iron deficiency in pregnancy can be associated with feelings of weakness and fatigue. Understanding the risk factors for different types of anemia in pregnancy as well as the signs and symptoms of this condition can be effective in preventing it. If you are pregnant and at risk for anemia, you need to know why this condition occurs during pregnancy and how to deal with it. Seeing a doctor is recommended for all pregnant women if the symptoms of anemia worsen.