The body produces extra blood during pregnancy to supply organs and maintain the developing foetus. If the body does not have enough iron to meet these demands, a pregnant woman has iron deficiency anaemia.
If you are feeling weak, easily get tired or notice that you are turning pale, it could be that you are experiencing iron deficiency anaemia. Learn the causes of iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy and how to avoid it.
What Is Iron Deficiency Anaemia
When a person’s iron intake is insufficient to satisfy their demands, iron deficiency anaemia in pregnancy develops. Due to the needs of the developing foetus, a person’s need for iron during pregnancy rises dramatically.
When the body doesn’t have enough iron to make enough haemoglobin, this type of anaemia develops. That protein is found in red blood cells. It transports oxygen from the lungs to the body’s other tissues.
The blood cannot transport enough oxygen to body tissues when there is iron-deficient anaemia.
Your baby needs your red blood cells during pregnancy for growth and development, especially in the final three months. Your body can utilise any excess red blood cells that are present in your bone marrow before becoming pregnant. Iron deficiency anaemia can occur in women whose iron levels are insufficient.
Anaemia in pregnancy is most frequently caused by an iron deficiency.
Iron Deficiency During Pregnancy
You are more likely to develop iron deficiency anaemia if you are pregnant. When you have iron deficiency anaemia, your red blood cells aren’t healthy enough to carry enough oxygen to the body’s tissues.
Premature birth is more likely when a pregnant woman has severe anaemia (when delivery occurs before 37 complete weeks of pregnancy). Low birth weight and postpartum depression are also linked to iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy. Additionally, some studies indicate a higher risk of newborn death right before or right after birth.
Signs of Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Pregnancy
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Signs and symptoms of anaemia include:
- Unsteadiness or faintness
- Yellowish or pale skin
- Ice cravings or ice chewing (pica)
Severe anaemia symptoms can include:
- A pounding heartbeat
- Reduced blood pressure
- Trouble concentrating
However, keep in mind that anaemia symptoms may resemble common signs of pregnancy. Whether or whether you experience symptoms, blood tests will be performed to check for anaemia throughout pregnancy. Speak with your healthcare physician if you have any concerns about your level of fatigue or any other symptoms.
Why Does Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy Happen?
Iron is used by your body to generate haemoglobin. Red blood cells include a protein called haemoglobin, which transports oxygen to your tissues.
Your body needs more iron when you are pregnant because of the increased blood volume. To produce more blood and provide your baby oxygen, your body utilises iron. You could develop iron deficiency anaemia if your iron levels are insufficient or if you don’t acquire enough iron while you’re pregnant.
According to some studies, drinking coffee, teas or other high caffeine drinks repels the absorption of iron. This is one of the reasons why you are asked to give up drinking caffeinated drinks while you are pregnant. Another reason for iron deficiency could come from your diet, especially if you are not eating enough foods rich in iron and Vitamin C like meat and fish.
Vitamin C is vital in the absorption of iron. Iron deficiency can also be caused by a short gap between pregnancies. Meaning, your body has not yet recovered fully from the previous pregnancy.
Risk Factors for Iron Deficiency Anemia During Pregnancy
During pregnancy, you run a higher chance of getting anaemia if you:
- Experience two consecutive pregnancies.
- Are expecting many children
- You have severe morning sickness and vomiting a lot
- You don’t eat enough foods high in iron.
- Have a heavy period before becoming pregnant
- Had anaemia in the past before getting pregnant
That is why it is important to undergo those standard laboratory procedures that your doctor requires so that they can determine and know ahead if you are suffering or prone to having iron deficiency anaemia or other health-threatening concerns.
Iron Deficiency Anaemia Blood Test
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You will receive a blood test at your first prenatal visit so that your doctor can determine whether you have anaemia. Typical blood tests include:
- Haemoglobin test
It calculates the amount of haemoglobin, a protein with a high iron content found in red blood cells and responsible for transporting oxygen from the lungs to body tissues.
- Hematocrit test
It determines the percentage of red blood cells in a blood sample.
You might develop iron-deficiency anaemia if your haemoglobin or hematocrit levels are below normal. To ascertain if you have an iron deficiency or another cause for your anaemia, your doctor may run additional blood tests.
Your doctor will probably advise doing a second blood test to screen for anaemia in your second or third trimester even if you didn’t have anaemia at the start of your pregnancy.
Complications of Iron Deficiency Anemia in Pregnancy
Complications for the expectant mother and the foetus can result from iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy. Pregnant women may be more vulnerable to:
A person may also suffer from cognitive decline, behavioural issues, and issues with their milk supply after having birth.
Babies born to anaemic parents are more likely to pass away and experience health issues like:
How Is Iron Deficiency Anemia Treated During Pregnancy?
Your doctor may advise testing to identify further potential causes if you are anaemic and taking a prenatal vitamin that contains iron.
You might occasionally need to consult a physician who focuses on treating blood issues (hematologist). If iron insufficiency is the root problem, your doctor can advise taking more iron supplements.
You might need to have iron delivered through a needle inserted into one of your veins if you have had gastric bypass or small bowel surgery in the past, if you are unable to tolerate oral iron supplements, or if you have any of these conditions (intravenous administration).
Supplements That Help With Anemia During Pregnancy
If you are found to have an iron deficiency, your doctor will prescribe you vitamins or iron supplements to increase your iron levels. Iron is for blood, it increases your blood supply which you need since you are supplying nutrients and oxygen to your baby. Also, you are storing or providing your baby the iron that he needs for him to survive.
Iron is often present in prenatal supplements. Prenatal vitamins with iron in them can help treat and prevent iron deficiency anaemia in pregnant women. Your doctor might occasionally advise taking an additional iron supplement. You require 27 milligrams of iron each day while pregnant.
Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can also be avoided by eating a healthy diet.
Foods That Help
Foods rich in iron can help to reduce your chance of getting anemia during pregnancy
Aside from taking iron supplements, you can also increase your iron levels by eating the right food. Foods like well-cooked meat and fish and vegetables are rich in iron.
Eat at least three servings of foods high in iron per day, such as:
- lean red meat, poultry, and fish
- leafy, dark green vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and kale)
- iron-enriched cereals and grains
- beans, lentils, and tofu
- nuts and seeds
Fruits rich in Vitamin C are also important since Vitamin C helps you absorb iron well. These include:
- citrus fruits and juices
- bell peppers
Try consuming those items at the same time as foods high in iron. For breakfast, you might, as an illustration, have a glass of orange juice and some iron-fortified cereal.
Additionally, pick meals high in folate to help prevent a folate shortage. These consist of:
- leafy green vegetables
- citrus fruits and juices
- dried beans
- breads and cereals fortified with folic acid
You should take a prenatal vitamin that has enough folic acid and iron, per your doctor’s recommendations.
When pregnant or nursing, vegetarians and vegans should discuss with their doctor whether they should take a vitamin B12 supplement.
Also, avoid caffeinated drinks like coffee and tea since it hinders iron to be absorbed.
Updates by Matt Doctor
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