Anaemia In Pregnancy: How To Protect Yourself And Your Baby

Your body generates extra blood throughout pregnancy to support your baby’s development. If you don’t receive enough iron or certain other nutrients, your body may be unable to create the necessary number of red blood cells to produce this extra blood.


Medically Reviewed by Dr. K on 9th Dec 2021.

Anaemia In Pregnancy: How To Protect Yourself And Your Baby

Your body generates extra blood throughout pregnancy to support your baby’s development. If you don’t receive enough iron or certain other nutrients, your body may be unable to create the necessary number of red blood cells to produce this extra blood.

When you’re pregnant, it’s common to have moderate anaemia. However, insufficient iron or vitamin levels and other factors may cause more severe anaemia.

You may feel weary and weak as a result of anaemia. It may raise your chance of significant problems, such as premature birth if it is severe yet untreated.

Here’s everything you need to know about anaemia during pregnancy, including the causes, symptoms, and treatment options.

Types of Anaemia During Pregnancy

During pregnancy, a variety of anaemias may occur. These are some of them:

  • Anaemia due to a lack of iron
  • Anaemia due to a lack of folate
  • Deficiency of vitamin B12

The following are some of the reasons why various kinds of anaemia may develop:

Iron-deficiency anaemia. When the body doesn’t have enough iron to generate enough haemoglobin, this form of anaemia develops. That’s a red blood cell protein. It is responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.

When you have iron-deficiency anaemia, your blood can’t transport enough oxygen to all of your body’s tissues.

The most frequent cause of anaemia in pregnancy is iron deficiency.

Folate-deficiency anaemia. Folate is a nutrient that may be found in a variety of meals, including green leafy vegetables. The body needs folate, a B vitamin, to create new cells, including healthy red blood cells.

Women need additional folate during pregnancy. However, they do not always receive enough from their food. When this occurs, the body cannot produce enough normal red blood cells to deliver oxygen to all of the body’s tissues. Folic acid is the name given to folate supplements made by humans.

Folate deficiency has been linked to neural tube anomalies (spina bifida) and low birth weight, among other birth problems.

Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is required for the formation of healthy red blood cells in the body. When a pregnant woman’s diet is deficient in vitamin B12, her body cannot generate enough healthy red blood cells. Women who don’t consume meat, poultry, dairy products, or eggs are more likely to have a vitamin B12 deficiency, leading to birth problems, including neural tube abnormalities and premature labour.

Anaemia may also be caused by blood loss during and after delivery.

Risk Factors for Anemia in Pregnancy

Anaemia is a danger that all pregnant women face. This is because they need more iron and folic acid than usual. However, the threat is more significant if you:

  • Are you expecting multiples? (more than one child)
  • Had two pregnancies in a row.
  • Have morning sickness that causes a lot of vomiting.
  • Are a pregnant adolescent?
  • You aren’t eating enough iron-rich foods.
  • Have had anaemia before becoming pregnant?

Symptoms of Anemia During Pregnancy

The following are the most frequent signs and symptoms of anaemia during pregnancy:

  • Skin, lips, and nails that are pale
  • Tired
  • Weak
  • Dizziness
  • Breathing problems
  • A fast heartbeat
  • Concentration issues

You may not notice any signs in the early stages of anaemia. Many of the symptoms are ones that you may experience even if you aren’t anaemic while pregnant. So, during your prenatal visits, be sure to obtain regular blood testing to screen for anaemia.

Risks of Anemia in Pregnancy

During pregnancy, severe or untreated iron deficiency anaemia may increase your chances of having:

  • A baby who was born prematurely or with a low birth weight
  • A blood transfusion (if you lose a significant amount of blood during delivery)
  • Depression after childbirth
  • Anaemia in a baby
  • A child that is experiencing developmental delays

Untreated folate insufficiency raises your chances of developing:

  • A baby who is born prematurely or with a low birth weight
  • A baby born with a severe spine or brain problem (neural tube defects)
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency, if left untreated, may increase your chances of delivering a kid with neural tube abnormalities.

Tests for Anaemia

You’ll receive a blood test at your first prenatal visit so your doctor can see whether you have anaemia. Typical blood tests include:

  • Haemoglobin test. It determines the quantity of haemoglobin in red blood cells, an iron-rich protein transporting oxygen from the lungs to the body’s tissues.
  • Hematocrit is a blood test that determines how healthy a person is. It determines the proportion of red blood cells in a blood sample.

You may have iron deficiency anaemia if your haemoglobin or hematocrit levels are lower than average. Your doctor may order other blood tests to see whether you have iron deficiency or your anaemia is caused by something else.

Even if you didn’t have anaemia at the start of your pregnancy, your doctor would most likely suggest that you have a blood test in the second or third trimester to screen for anaemia.

Treatment for Anaemia

If you become anaemic throughout your pregnancy, you may need to complement your prenatal vitamins with iron and folic acid supplement. Your doctor may also advise you to increase the amount of iron and folic acid in your diet.

In addition, you’ll be asked to return for another blood test after a certain amount of time has passed so that your doctor can monitor your haemoglobin and hematocrit levels.

Your doctor may advise you to take a vitamin B12 supplement to address vitamin B12 deficiency.

In addition, your doctor may advise you to eat more animal products, such as:

  • meat
  • eggs
  • dairy

Your OB may send you to a haematologist, a specialist in anaemia and blood disorders. During your pregnancy, the expert may visit you and assist your OB in managing your anaemia.

Preventing Anaemia

Make sure you receive enough iron when pregnant to avoid anaemia. Consume well-balanced meals and increase your intake of iron-rich foods.

Aim for three servings of iron-rich meals each day, such as:

  • fish, poultry, and lean red meat
  • dark green leafy veggies (such as spinach, broccoli, and kale)
  • cereals and grains with added iron
  • Tofu, lentils, and beans
  • seeds and nuts
  • eggs

Vitamin C-rich foods may assist your body in absorbing more iron. These are some of them:

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

Attempt to consume such meals at the same time as iron-rich foods. For breakfast, you may drink orange juice and consume iron-fortified cereal, for example.

To help avoid folate shortage, eat foods that are rich in folate. These are some of them:

  • green leafy veggies
  • juices and citrus fruits
  • beans that have been dried
  • folic acid-fortified bread and cereals

Take a prenatal vitamin that includes enough iron and folic acid according to your doctor’s recommendations.

When vegetarians and vegans are pregnant or nursing, they should see their doctor about taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

Sources

  1. https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/anemia-in-pregnancy#1 
  2. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: “Nutrition During Pregnancy."
  3. American Society of Hematology: “Anemia & Pregnancy" and “Anemia."
  4. American Academy of Family Physicians: “Anemia: Causes and Risk Factors."
  5. National Institutes of Health: “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Iron" and “Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B12."
  6. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health: “Anemia Fact Sheet;" “Anemia: Healthy Lifestyle Changes;" “Folic acid fact sheet" and “Pregnancy."
  7. UCSF Medical Center: “Anemia and Pregnancy."
  8. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute: “Who Is at Risk for Anemia?"
  9. Cleveland Clinic: “Increasing Iron in Your Diet During Pregnancy," “Anemia."
  10. The Merck Manual: “Anemia in Pregnancy," “Vitamin B12."
  11. CDC: “Iron and Iron Deficiency," “Take 400 mcg of Folic Acid Today!"
  12. The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: “Anemia in Pregnancy."
  13. ACOG Practice Bulletin: “Anemia in Pregnancy."
  14. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: “Eating Right During Pregnancy."
  15. Harvard School of Public Health: “Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes and Symptoms."
  16. University of Maryland Medical Center: “Anemia — Risk Factors."
  17. American Academy of Family Physicians: “Anemia: Complications."
  18. Johns Hopkins Medicine: “Anemia of Folate Deficiency."
  19. Molloy, A. Pediatrics, March 1, 2009.

 

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