Doctor takes blood on the analysis from the pregnant womanAnemia is a medical condition in which there is not enough healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen to the tissues in the body. When the tissues do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen, many organs and functions are affected. Anemia during pregnancy is especially a concern because it is associated with low birth weight, premature birth and maternal mortality. Although it is a concern, it is very common in pregnancy.

Women who are pregnant are at a higher risk for developing anemia due to the excess amount of blood the body produces to help provide nutrients for the baby. Anemia during pregnancy can be a mild condition and easily treated if caught early on.

Types of Anemia during pregnancy

There are over 400 different types of anemia, but some are more prevalent in pregnancy. Iron-deficiency anemia most commonly experienced type of anemia during pregnancy. Approximately 15% to 25% of all pregnancies experience iron deficiency. Iron is a mineral found in the red blood cells and is used to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body, as well as helps the muscles store and use oxygen. When too little iron is produced, the body can become fatigued and have a lowered resistance to infection.

Causes of Anemia during Pregnancy

The cause of anemia truly comes down to how many red blood cells are being produced in the body and how healthy they are. A fall in hemoglobin levels during pregnancy is caused by a greater expansion of plasma volume compared with the increase in red cell volume. This disproportion between the rates of increase for plasma and erythrocytes has the most distinction during the second trimester.

The following are ways red blood cells can be affected and lead to anemia:

  • A lack of iron in the diet as a result of not eating enough iron-rich foods or the body’s inability to absorb the iron being consumed.
  • Pregnancy itself because the iron being produced is needed for the woman’s body to increase her own blood volume. Without an iron supplement, there is not enough iron to feed the blood supply of the growing fetus.
  • Heavy bleeding due to menstruation, an ulcer or polyp, or blood donation causes red blood cells to be destroyed faster than they can be replenished

Symptoms of anemia during pregnancy

Symptoms of anemia during pregnancy can be mild at first, and often go unnoticed. However, as it progresses, the symptoms will worsen. It is also important to note that some symptoms can be due to a different cause other than anemia, so talking with your doctor is important. Some common symptoms of anemia are:

  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest Pain
  • Pale skin, lips and nails
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Trouble concentrating

Treatment for anemia during pregnancy

Anemia during pregnancy can easily be treated by adding iron or vitamin supplements to your daily routine. Typically, this is all that is needed to reverse the effects of anemia.

Prevention of anemia during pregnancy

Preventing anemia during pregnancy is as easy as changing, or making additions, to your diet. Medical professionals recommend a pregnant woman eat 30 mg (at least three servings) of iron each day.

List of Iron Rich Foods

Because it can be a challenge to eat as much iron as is suggested during pregnancy, taking iron supplements is recommended in addition to consuming these foods.

Foods that are high in vitamin C can actually help the body absorb more iron, so it is beneficial to make these additions as well. Vitamin C rich foods include:

  • Citrus fruits and juices
  • Strawberries
  • Oranges
  • Kiwis
  • Tomatoes
  • Bell peppers
After delivery blood volume and plasma levels are expected to return to normal. This may take care of any anemia concerns that develop later in pregnancy. This should not keep pregnant women from seeking care for anemia during pregnancy.