Anemia is a condition in which the number of red blood cells are low, meaning that the cells which carry oxygen to your baby and yourself is low. Anemia is the most common blood condition in the U.S. It affects about 3.5 million Americans. Women and people with chronic diseases are at increased risk of anemia.
Anemia is an extremely common pregnancy complication and if you are suffering from anemia it is important that it is diagnosed early on during your pregnancy.
There are many types of anemia. All are very different in their causes and treatments. Iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type, is very treatable with diet changes and iron supplements. Some forms of anemia — like the anemia that develops during pregnancy — are even considered normal. However, some types of anemia may present lifelong health problems.
Iron deficiency is one of the type of anemia. Anemia occurs when there is not enough iron in the blood. Iron is an important building block for hemoglobin, the part of red blood cells that carries oxygen.
In pregnancy, the amount of blood in the body must increase by almost 50% to feed the growing baby. As a result, the mothers body starts to make blood at a faster pace. Sometimes the need for iron is greater than the amount stored in the body. The result is iron deficiency anemia. Approximately 20% of pregnant women have anemia.
Am I at Risk?
You are at higher risk for becoming anemic during your pregnancy if you:
Have two pregnancies close together
Are pregnant with more than one child
Are vomiting frequently due to morning sickness
Do not consume enough iron
Have a heavy pre-pregnancy menstrual flow
Symptoms of Anemia
Many of the symptoms of anemia during pregnancy are also symptoms you may experience even if you are not anemic; these include:
Feeling tired or weak
Progressive paleness of the skin
Shortness of breath
Causes of Anemia
Poor intake of iron- and folate-rich foods
Increased destruction of red blood cells that can occasionally occur during illness
How Will I Know if I am Anemic?
Most of the time women dont know they are anemic. Because anemia is so common, doctors and midwives usually check the blood for anemia during the first prenatal visit. Sometimes they will repeat the test at about 28 weeks of pregnancy, or whenever there is a concern that the woman may be anemic.
The most common symptom of anemia is excessive tiredness. If anemia is severe, women may also experince dizziness, fainting, fast or irregular heartbeat, pale skin or shortness of breath.
- Eat iron-rich foods such as meat, chicken, fish, eggs, dried beans and fortified grains. The form of iron in meat products, called heme, is more easily absorbed than the iron in vegetables. If you are anemic and you ordinarily eat meat, increasing the amount of meat you consume is the easiest way to increase the iron your body receives.
- Eat foods high in folic acid, such as dried beans, dark green leafy vegetables, wheat germ and orange juice.
- Eat foods high in vitamin C, such as citrus fruits and fresh, raw vegetables.
- Cooking with cast iron pots can add up to 80 percent more iron to your food.
- Take your prenatal multivitamin and mineral pill which contains extra folate.