A low level of hemoglobin during pregnancy leads to anemia. This is very common during pregnancy and is present in almost 80% of the pregnant women.
During pregnancy, there is an increase in blood volume and a moderate decrease in the concentration of red blood cells and a normal hemoglobin level.
The percentage of red blood cells relative to plasma value in a non pregnant woman ranges from 38-45%. In a normal pregnant woman, the percentage of red blood cells is 34% and in a twin or multiple pregnancies, it is 30% even if you have normal levels of iron, folic acid and vitamin B12.
These lower levels of red blood cells indicate the psychological hemodilution of pregnancy and it does not indicate a decrease in oxygen carrying capacity or true anemia. 90% of cases of anemia during pregnancy are mainly due to low iron levels.
Possible causes which lead to anemia during pregnancy include:
- Insufficient consumption of iron in your diet
- Deficiency of folic acid
- Gastrointestinal bleeding
- Loss of blood from bleeding hemorrhoids
Even if you consume sufficient amounts of iron and folic acid; you may become anemic because of the great alteration of your digestive process in pregnancy.
The risks of anemia during pregnancy are even greater:
- If you have severe morning sickness with frequent vomiting
- If you have had two or more pregnancies successively
- If you have multiple pregnancies
- If your diet have insufficient iron content
- If the menstrual flow before the pregnancy was heavy
These causes during your pregnancy can lead to 18-27 grams of iron deficiency per each day. Not receiving enough vitamin B12 or folic acid, losing large quantities of blood, or some inherited blood diseases like sickle cell disease can also lead to anemia during pregnancy.
How to recognize that you are anemic?
Most of the times, you are not aware that you are anemic as it is the most common condition during pregnancy. During the first prenatal visit, your doctor checks your blood for anemia. This test will be repeated again at 28 weeks of pregnancy.
Most commonly, you will encounter excessive tiredness if you are anemic during pregnancy. If the condition becomes severe, then you will experience fainting, dizziness, pale skin, fast or irregular heartbeat, and shortness of breath.
Treating anemia during pregnancy:
If anemia is due to insufficient iron content, then the condition is treated with iron tablets. If the doctor prescribes iron capsules, then take them with food to prevent nausea.
But, don’t take iron capsules along with calcium tablets or milk because calcium prevents iron from being used by your baby. If you take iron along with orange juice, then it helps to absorb the iron more easily.
Iron supplements are an easy way to boost the body’s iron stores, especially for women who may not get adequate iron from their diets. Vegetarians or women who avoid red meat are particularly prone to iron deficiency and may require higher doses of iron. Discuss your diet with your doctor to determine if iron tablets will be beneficial.
Due to iron intake, your bowel movements become dark colored or even black. This is due to the excess iron that is not absorbed by your body. There is no need to worry, as it does not cause any damage.
Sometimes, iron can also cause diarrhea or constipation. So, it is better to consult your doctor if the problem persists for longer duration.
Preventing anemia during pregnancy:
You need to take the foods that are high in iron and vitamin C content. Some of the iron rich foods include:
- Red meats
- Dried fruits like apricots, raisins, prunes, etc
- Green leafy vegetables like spinach, broccoli, etc
- Dried beans or tofu
- Iron rich foods like pasta, cereal and bread
So, consuming the diet that is rich in above mentioned foods is beneficial to prevent anemia during pregnancy.