Anemia and Pregnancy is no cause for worry, Here you’ll find tips to manage it effectively.

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Anemia and pregnancy are very common concurrent occurrences in about 30 to 50% of all conceptions. Blood plasma volume, the volume of fluid in your blood, rapidly increases to maintain blood pressure during pregnancy because you’ll now have to supply two interconnected circulatory systems during pregnancy; one for yourself and the other for your growing baby.

At the same time, the amount of red blood cells in your blood is expected to increase. When this isn’t the case, your bloodstream becomes too diluted with increased plasma volume; resulting in dilutional anemia.

What is Anemia and why does Anemia and Pregnancy co-exist?

Anemia refers to decrease in the number of red blood cells that are responsible for carrying oxygen to your developing baby and other cells of your body; a condition in which the oxygen-transporting red blood cells is less than normal. Hemoglobin of less than 10g/dL is considered anemia in pregnancy.

In order to ensure effective blood supply, excessive fluid is retained in the body of a typical expecting mom, causing a dilution of blood and low hemoglobin levels. Anemia and pregnancy aren’t a healthy combination for the health of either child or mother due to various possible complications.

Since your baby receives oxygen from the hemoglobin in your red blood cells, a therapy must be done to improve your hemoglobin levels and ensure your baby gets sufficient oxygen and nutrients if your red blood cells are confirmed inadequate.

What are the Important Risk Factors about Anemia and Pregnancy?

Anemia and pregnancy are very strongly linked as maternal demand of nutrients increases during pregnancy. Some risk factors that are associated with anemia in pregnancy are:

  • Eating disorder. Malnourished moms are more vulnerable to develop anemia, even very early into pregnancy.
  • Poor dietary habit especially in younger aged pregnant moms. This is also a very strong risk factor on the fact that young expecting moms aren't very dutiful in taking care of their health.
  • Multigravida moms i.e. Moms that are carrying multiple fetuses such as twins, triplets, or more.
  • Inappropriate child spacing between pregnancies.
  • Women who have severe nausea, bleeding and vomiting during their pregnancy.
  • Primigravida moms (first time expecting moms) also develop anemia more readily because of pregnancy related symptoms like food aversions, heartburn and indigestion.

What are important signs and symptoms of anemia during pregnancy?

The signs and symptoms of anemia vary with the severity of hemoglobin deficit. Mild anemia is normal in pregnancy and in most cases, well tolerated by most expecting moms, without any symptoms. However, in moderate anemia symptoms like dizziness, sleepiness, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue and inability to perform normal daily activities are observed.

Although women who keep up with their routine antenatal checkups hardly, if ever, develop severe anemia; if severe anemia develops, possible symptoms include extreme fatigue, excessive sleepiness and shortness of breath, even at rest. Anemic expecting moms may develop edema of feet, palpitation and increased heart beat, even in the absence of any emotional or physical stress.

Anemia and Pregnancy - The Implications on Maternal Health

Consequences and complications of anemia during pregnancy can be severe if not properly treated at the right time. In a typical pregnancy, the amount of blood is increased with about 50% without any appreciable hemoglobin improvement; such increase in blood volume is of no worth and termed dilutional anemia. If anemia isn’t corrected early in pregnancy, it may lead to:

  • Malnourished mother.
  • In case of any labor related complications that lead to increased blood loss, maternal death or fetal death or both is a likely complication in the absence of timely blood transfusion.
  • Babies born to anemic moms have low birth weight and increased risk of valvular defects.
  • Unhealthy and prolonged postpartum recovery.

Anemia and Pregnancy : How Anemia can be treated?

When you just got pregnant, your body’s iron store supplies iron to support your developing baby. When your blood volume increases as pregnancy progresses, unprecedented amount of iron are taken to produce the required red blood cells and your iron store may likely be depleted in the process.

Anemia is therefore unlikely in women who take regular iron and folic acid supplements. If anemia is mild, mere iron and folic acid supplements can correct blood hemoglobin within normal range, however if pregnancy is in third trimester and anemia is moderate to severe, intravenous iron may be given. In some cases where hemoglobin is below 7 to 8g/dL, blood transfusion can be conducted to prevent uneventful delivery and post delivery recovery.

Can anemia in pregnancy be prevented?

In an average woman, recommended daily requirement of iron is 18mg per day; however during pregnancy this demand shoots up to about 30mg per day and this increased requirement must be supplied to prevent anemia in pregnancy.

Iron-deficiency anemia is the most common typical anemia in pregnancy which can be easily prevented. In order to avoid anemia during pregnancy, give attention to your diet and take care of your health even before becoming pregnant.

During pregnancy, your body’s demand for nutrition and calories usually increases to such a great degree that supplements will be required to meet up. Iron helps your body to produce blood and also helps your baby grow.

It’s advisable you begin daily iron and folic acid supplements from the first trimester of pregnancy or get dietary iron and folic from food sources such as spinach, leafy green vegetables, red meat, chicken, fish, dried fruits, dry beans, citrus fruits, whole-grain bread and other iron-fortified cereals etc. In addition, you could combine your diet with vitamin C-rich foods for enhanced iron absorption from your supplements.

Ask your doctor or dietitian about healthy foods that can help you meet your dietary requirements for managing anemia and pregnancy. Stick to your doctor’s prescriptions!

A test for Complete Blood Count (CBC) is usually conducted around 24-28 weeks in pregnancy, alongside Glucose screen test, to detect any significant iron deficiency during pregnancy. Anemia is very rarely associated with any catastrophic complications in women who take regular iron and folic acid supplements throughout pregnancy.

If you’re in a condition of anemia and pregnancy, you can be sure of having a hitch-free delivery if you align with your healthcare provider to effectively manage anemia and pregnancy predicament.

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