Does Anemia During Pregnancy Affect The Baby? How & Remedies
Created by Shikha Batra Updated on Mar 31, 2020
Are you pregnant and feel exhausted or excessively fatigued? Are there accompanying symptoms such as shortness of breath, dizziness or weakness?
If yes, what you might be having is anaemia during pregnancy which is a medical condition in which one lacks enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body's tissues. During pregnancy the risk of anaemia increases. The body of a pregnant woman produces more blood to support the growth of her baby. If her iron stores are not enough and she is not getting enough iron during pregnancy she could develop anaemia.
How is Iron-deficiency Anaemia tested?
Routine Blood tests are advised during prenatal exams which basically includes Hemoglobin test which measures the amount of haemoglobin in blood or Hematocrit test which measures the percentage of red blood cells in a sample of blood. These are the most simple indicators of anaemia.
What level of haemoglobin is considered abnormal?
Anaemia is generally defined according to haemoglobin levels. These levels may vary according to age, gender and ethnicity. For males any level below 13g/dL, for females below 12g/dL and for pregnant women level less than 10g/dL are considered abnormal during pregnancy.
How does anaemia affect your baby during pregnancy?
Throughout pregnancy, iron deficiency anaemia adversely affects maternal and fetal well-being. It can be linked with an increased risk of maternal mortality and fetal death. Iron deficiency anaemia can also lead to premature labour, postpartum maternal infections, intrauterine growth retardation, low birth weight, birth asphyxia and neonatal anaemia.
What are the signs and symptoms of anaemia during pregnancy?
The women with anaemia might experience :
Cold hands and feet
Lowered resistance to infection
Pica/craving for non-food items
What are the causes of anaemia during pregnancy?
The most common causes of anaemia during pregnancy are iron deficiency, vitamin B12 deficiency and folate deficiency. Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anaemia which may occur due to the following reason:
a) Inadequate iron intake
b) Malabsorption of iron
c) Chronic bleeding due to heavy periods before pregnancy or tumours
d) Having less spacing between two pregnancies
e) Being pregnant with twins or more
f) Frequent vomiting due to morning sickness
Vitamin B12 is important in making RBC and protein. Its deficiency is most common in women who do not eat any foods that come from animals or women who are vegans.
Folate is required for the development of the fetal nervous system and its deficiency increases the risk of neural tube birth defects. Folate deficiency is also very common and may result from the following reasons:
a) Inadequate intake of folates
b) Malabsorption of folate
c) Use of various drugs
How can anaemia be treated naturally during pregnancy?
Anaemia can be treated naturally by eating a balanced, healthy and a nutritious diet before and during pregnancy which helps in building reserves or nutritional stores in body of pregnant women. It also helps in maintaining healthy iron levels as well as keeps up the level of other important nutrients required for the growing fetus. Sources of iron include:
- Poultry especially dark meat, chicken, duck and turkey
- Meats such as pork, lamb, beef, liver and other organ meats
- Fish that are lower in mercury such as salmon, shrimp, cod etc. and shellfish, sardines and anchovies.
- Leafy greens such as broccoli, turnip greens, collards and kale
- Legumes such as green peas and lima beans, dry beans and canned baked beans
- Whole wheat bread
- Iron-fortified rice, cereals and pasta
Good sources of folate in the form of folic acid found in food are:
Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
Enriched grain products
Dried peas and beans
Leafy, dark green vegetables
Citrus fruits and juices
How can severe anaemia be treated?
If a pregnant woman is suffering from anaemia, she would be usually treated with iron supplements and/or folic acid supplements in addition to prenatal vitamins as recommended by her doctor. It is important to note that iron supplements should be taken two hours before or four hours after taking antacids as they can interfere with iron absorption. Also taking vitamin C supplements, such as citrus fruits like kiwi, tomatoes, strawberries, melon, bell pepper may also aid in the absorption of iron. However, in severe cases where supplementation does not improve health condition, intravenous iron supplementation or a blood transfusion may be required.
Due to the excess amount of blood being produced by the body of pregnant women to help provide adequate nourishment to the fetus, they are at a higher risk of developing anaemia. Anaemia is very common during pregnancy and is a mild condition if treated early on. However, the situation can become dangerous, for both the mother and the baby, if it remains undetected and untreated.
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