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Anemia in Pregnancy

Anemia in Pregnancy

Anemia is said to be a common health problem during pregnancy. As it is a serious medical condition, it can cause severe complications. This article will tell you more about the causes, symptoms, and treatment of this condition in pregnant women.
Deepa Kartha
Last Updated: Mar 7, 2018
Pregnant woman in blue dress
Anemia is a medical condition which occurs when a person is found with a deficiency of red blood cells. Though people of all ages can be diagnosed with anemia, pregnant women are more vulnerable to it. Due to the prevalence of anemia, the fetus may not receive sufficient blood, which contains vitamins, hormones, electrolytes, etc., for its development. This may result in low birth weight, poor fetal growth, and birth of the baby before completion of the actual term.

There are a couple of factors that can increase the risk of pregnant women to have anemia. It has been observed that this is very common when a pregnant woman is carrying twins. Another reason for anemia during pregnancy is lack of a nutritious diet. Women who smoke and consume alcohol also have a higher risk of getting affected by anemia.

The most common cause of this condition is due to iron deficiency. Iron deficiency anemia is mostly found during the last three months of pregnancy. During this period, the baby requires the red blood cells from the mother's blood for development. Women who do not consume adequate amounts of foods that contain iron to regain the lost red blood cells become anemic.

Deficiency of folic acid is also another reason for anemia during pregnancy. Folic acid or folate is a vitamin necessary for having a healthy baby. Researchers have found that intake of foods containing folic acid during pregnancy can decrease the chances of the baby having brain and spinal cord defects.

Another cause is lack of vitamin B12 in the body. This vitamin is extremely crucial for the formation of red blood cells and protein synthesis. This deficiency is most likely to be seen in women who are vegetarians. Loss of blood can also lead to an anemic condition in pregnancy. Some pregnant women may experience gastrointestinal bleeding or bleeding hemorrhoids leading to excess loss of blood. Anemia can also occur due to loss of blood during childbirth and after delivery.

Women suffering from anemia during pregnancy may experience certain symptoms when the red blood count goes too low. Some of the signs and symptoms of anemia include:
  • Extreme tiredness or fatigue
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Feeling dizzy (vertigo)
  • Paleness on the lips, nails, skin, palms, etc.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Anemia is diagnosed when the hemoglobin or hematocrit level of blood is found to be very low during routine blood tests. The treatment would differ person to person. The medications or treatment measures is determined after looking at the medical history and health during pregnancy. Most likely, pregnant women diagnosed with anemia are likely to be given iron and Vitamin B12 supplements. However, these should be taken only twice a day, because too much iron supplements can cause side effects, like constipation. Sometimes, the body may not be able to absorb iron, and so intra-muscular iron injections may be given. When anemia is due to vitamin B12 deficiency, consumption of vitamin B12 supplements to increase the count of red blood cells is necessary.

A nutritious and healthy diet during pregnancy can lower the risk of having anemia. It is necessary for women to include green leafy vegetables, legumes, cereals, rice, pasta, milk, chicken, beef, pork, etc., in their diet to prevent anemia. Moreover, it is also important to give up cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption completely. Taking precautions to avoid anemia would ensure the perfect health of the mother and the baby.