Anaemia in Pregnancy - Causes, Symptoms & Prevention
Created by Dr Pooja Mittal Updated on Feb 17, 2020
What Is Anaemia?
Anaemia is a condition when the body lacks adequate healthy red blood cells in blood to carry oxygen to the body parts.
Anaemia is defined as a haemoglobin of less than 12 g/dl. During pregnancy haemoglobin level of less than 11 is taken as the cut-off for anaemia.
What Causes Anaemia?
Our body needs iron to manufacture haemoglobin, a protein present in the red blood cells that carries oxygen to the tissues.
During pregnancy, the daily requirement of iron is significantly more. It is required to make more blood to supply oxygen to the developing baby. Anaemia happens if adequate iron is not taken in diet or if the iron stores in the body are insufficient.
Risk Factors For Developing Anaemia
Women who have closely spaced pregnancies, multiple pregnancies, severe vomiting in pregnancy, heavy periods in the prepregnancy period, low haemoglobin before pregnancy and low dietary iron are at increased risk of developing anaemia in pregnancy. It’s important to identify these women and treat them.
Symptoms of Anaemia
Symptoms of anaemia may be vague and varied. They may include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, dizziness, lightheadedness, feeling out of breath and tired, cold hands and feet, headache etc.
Severe anaemia can be life-threatening and can cause cardiac failure and even death.
How Does Anaemia Affect The Pregnant Woman?
A pregnant woman having anaemia is at higher risk of having low birth weight baby, premature delivery and postpartum depression. ANAEMIA also reduces immunity, hence the probability of having infections increases. Moreover, even a moderate blood loss during delivery can be serious.
How Does Anaemia Affect The Baby?
Iron is prioritized to the blood cells of the baby at the expense of other tissues. Hence, the baby of an anaemic mother is more likely to be small in weight or born prematurely. Such a baby may remain anaemic in infancy and childhood which affects behaviour, growth and school performance of the child adversely. An anaemic child also has increased risk of developing infections due to low immunity.
Prevention And Treatment Of Anaemia In Pregnancy
Good nutrition and dietary practices before and during pregnancy can prevent anaemia. Women should be counselled for the same when they visit the doctor.
Good dietary sources of iron include green vegetables and leafy greens such as beans, broccoli, peas, spinach, lettuce, beetroots; fruits such as pomegranates, guava, dates, figs, prunes etc, legumes, lentils, whole grains and sprouts, black grams, ragi, brown rice, dry fruits, meat, fish, poultry, eggs and fortified breakfast cereals and fortified juices.
Cooking food in a cast iron utensil can add a significant amount of iron to the diet.
Tea, coffee and calcium supplements should not be taken with iron supplements as they can reduce iron absorption from food.
Taking iron with vitamin C or vitamin C rich foods such as oranges, lemon juice, strawberries or tomato juice can increase iron absorption from food.
Doctors prescribe iron, folate and B12 supplements to pregnant women if haemoglobin is low. Iron injections are also an option if oral iron is not tolerated due to side effects.
Severe anaemia is treated by transfusing blood.
Easy to Prevent During Pregnancy
Anaemia is a common but often preventable problem that affects the mother and the baby adversely. Adequate nutrition and good antenatal care are paramount in the prevention of anaemia.