Anemia in Pregnancy
It is very common for a woman to develop anemia during pregnancy. The unborn baby needs iron and takes iron from the mother’s supply. During pregnancy, the woman’s blood supply also increases with 50% which means that more iron is needed to create hemoglobin.
If you are experiencing fatigue during your pregnancy, you might be anemic. Here are helpful signs to look for and ways to treat anemia during pregnancy.
Anemia, or a lack of iron in the blood, affects about 20% of women during pregnancy. How will you know if you have anemia during your pregnancy?
Fatigue is typically the first sign. But many assume that all pregnant women feel tired, especially in the first and last trimesters.
Here are some questions to ask yourself if you think you might be experiencing anemia during your pregnancy:
- Do I feel tired frequently?
- Am I getting headaches?
- Do I have trouble concentrating?
- Do I feel listeless?
Of course the best way to know for sure if you have anemia during your pregnancy is to have a blood test at your provider’s office. If you are anemic, an iron supplement of 30 to 60mg is often recommended. You may also be encouraged to add additional iron-rich foods to your diet. Some of these foods include:
- Organ meats and other red meats (kidney, liver, lean beef, tuna)
- Beans, nuts and legumes (nuts, lentils)
- Whole or enriched breads and cereals (Total cereal is packed with iron)
- Dark green leafy vegetables (kale, spinach, watercress)
- Black currants (canned)
- Dried fruits (ex. apricots, raisins, prunes, figs)
Your body can only absorb about 20-40% of the iron found in meats, while only 5-20% of the iron found in non-meat foods such as vegetables. If you are anemic during your pregnancy, be sure you have a combination of many iron rich foods to help you absorb as much iron as possible.
You’re more likely to become anaemic during pregnancy because, in particular during the second and third trimester, your iron needs increase significantly, from 18 mg to 27 mg per day. You need more iron because you have more blood circulating in your arteries and iron is essential to produce haemoglobin, the protein that carries oxygen around your body.
Iron deficiency means that your internal organs are not receiving enough oxygen to work properly. Your baby also needs iron to develop normally. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for most women to start pregnancy with low iron stores and the increased strain during pregnancy is enough to cause anemia during pregnancy. Some doctors recommend taking iron supplements as preventative, while others prefer to wait and see if it’s needed.
Do I need to be tested for anaemia?
All pregnant women are tested for anaemia at various points during pregnancy, as you may not be anaemic at the beginning but develop this condition later. You’re tested for the percentage of blood cells and the amount of haemoglobin in your blood. In combination, these results indicate whether you’re anaemic.
Symptoms of Anemia
The doctor will test the expectant mother’s blood levels in the beginning of the pregnancy to establish the hemoglobin levels. Even if the woman is not anemic, it can easily develop during the pregnancy and extra blood tests are usually taken in the second and third trimester as well. It is normal for the hemoglobin levels to fall somewhat during the second half of the pregnancy as the blood supply expand rapidly, but it is important that it does not fall too low. Women that are anemic usually feel tired and dizzy, but this could also be a general symptom of pregnancy. Anemic women can also be a bit paler than usual and this is usually extra visible in the finger nails. Other symptoms include a rapid heartbeat, headache, difficulty concentrating and shortness of breath.
How to get to know either I am anemic or not?
You can know that by simply having blood tests. The test will determine the amount of the red blood cells. Anemia in pregnancy is not good for the health of the fetus so it must be taken in the desired quantities. The midwife or the doctor might check after pregnancy twenty eight weeks for knowing either there is any anemic condition or not.
How is this condition treated?
Most likely, your doctor will prescribe iron supplements if you’ve been diagnosed with anaemia. Anemia during pregnancy treatment dose will probably be around 60 to 120 mg per day, but it can be more in extreme cases. It’s best to take these supplements with water or orange juice, but not with milk, as calcium interferes with iron absorption. It may take a few months to completely treat your anaemia, but should start seeing results within a few days.
Most commonly, iron supplements lead to constipation, worsening what you may already be experiencing. Make sure you chose a diet with fibre-rich foods. Less likely, it may cause heartburn, abdominal discomfort, nausea and vomiting. Try different times of the day to take your supplement to see what works best for you.
Does anaemia during pregnancy affect my baby?
Unless you’re suffering from an extreme case of iron deficiency, your baby will receive all the nutrients it needs, as your body fulfills your baby’s needs first and only then yours. However, this condition is associated with higher risk of preterm labour and low birth weight babies.
Risks of Anemia
Iron deficiency during pregnancy could possibly lead to pre-term labor and low birth weight. It is also associated with stillbirth and newborn death, so it is something to take seriously. The iron levels will not have a direct effect on the labor, but women who suffer from anemia will not tolerate blood loss very well. It is also thought that it can cause heavy post-delivery bleeding. Anemic women also lose the option of home delivery as it is necessary to be delivered and monitored in hospital.
Another main concern of the pregnant women is of bleeding.
You might get anemic is you bleed in heavy quantities during pregnancy. Why do women bleed during pregnancy? It could be due to a number of factors like ectopic pregnancy, placental abruption; placental previa, etc. Is it normal to bleed during pregnancy? No, it is not especially a pregnant woman bleed in heavily. This might lead to miscarriage or ectopic pregnancy. It has been seen that bleeding might occur due to urinary tract infections that can effectively be treated with the help of the probiotics. They contain good bacteria that can safely be used in pregnancy.
Prevention of Anemia
It is possible to prevent iron deficiency anemia by eating a healthy and balanced diet that contains plenty of iron. Having some food or drink containing C-vitamin with the iron rich food will help the body absorb the iron. Tea and coffee can make it difficult for the body to absorb iron, so it is a good idea to cut down on these drinks. Calcium also hinders the body to absorb iron, so milk should not be taken together with the iron supplement. Good sources of iron include:
- Green vegetables
- Iron rich cereals
Although liver contains a lot of iron, this should be avoided during pregnancy.
Ways to Increase Iron Absorption
Increase vitamin C – How much iron is actually absorbed depends on whether or not you have Vitamin C in your diet, as well as folic acid. Be sure as you increase your iron sources, you also increase foods in your diet that contain Vitamin C.
Caffeine reduces the absorption of iron, so plan to reduce or eliminate caffeine from your diet.
Be sure to read on for more help with a pregnancy diet plan as well as special diets that might be lacking in iron.
What are Braxton Hicks?
These contractions are the practice contractions as they appear before the actual labor pain. They are irregular and can go off by changing positions. Some of the medical experts are of the view that Braxton Hicks contractions are helpful as they help in toning the muscles of the uterus and also facilitate the blood flow into the placenta. Sometimes it may cause the cervix softening which in turn is helpful at the time of delivery. They may bring breathing difficulty so in order to get rid of it, drink water as sometimes contractions might erupt due to dehydration.
Consequently, we lead to a conclusion that pregnant women must keep her diet regarding iron in her keen concern. She must not bleed heavily as this will lead to miscarriage risk. Lastly, we discuss the Braxton Hicks contractions which are in actual helpful and a source of blood flow towards placenta.