Risks of Being Anemic During Pregnancy

Risks of Being Anemic During Pregnancy
Anat Zelmanovich OB-GYN (Obstetrician-Gynecologist) New York, NY

Dr. Zelmanovich is dedicated to providing patients with the highest clinical care and the best surgical outcomes. She is one of the best obgyn nyc and gynecological surgeons in NYC — and one of the few gynecologists in NYC and in the United States — performing robotic gynecological surgery. Dr. Zelmanovich of Gynecology... more

Women who are pregnant should make sure they don’t have anemia. A new study has discovered that having anemia while pregnant increases the risk of dying during the pregnancy or shortly after giving birth. Anemia is estimated to affect 32 million pregnant women worldwide and especially those in low and middle-income countries. These women are at higher risk of anemia due to a lack of iron in their diet, nutritional deficiencies, inherited blood disorders, and because of infections such as malaria and HIV.

Unfortunately, anemia is a widespread medical problem and researchers have discovered that women with severe anemia during their pregnancy, or who have anemia in the week after delivery, are at a higher risk of dying. This is terrible because anemia is easily treated and now researchers are trying to raise awareness about the problem as these types of maternal deaths are easily preventable. Strategies for preventing anemia in pregnancy include providing iron tablets, encouraging women to eat foods fortified with iron, and improving access to antenatal care.

What Is the Risk of Developing Anemia During Pregnancy?

If you are pregnant, then it is possible that you could develop anemia which is a condition where your blood doesn’t have sufficient red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body and to your growing baby. When you are pregnant, your body must produce more blood to help your baby grow, but if you don’t have sufficient iron or specific other nutrients, your body may be unable to produce the red blood cells needed to make the additional blood.

Lots of women may have mild anemia while pregnant, but if you have severe anemia, then it can leave you feeling tired, washed out and fatigued. Without the proper treatment, anemia could leave you at risk of developing complications that include a premature birth. The different types of anemia that may develop during pregnancy can be due to vitamin B12 deficiency or to a folate deficiency because of being low in iron.

When you are low in iron, your body is unable to produce hemoglobin which is the protein found in red blood cells and which helps to carry oxygen from your lungs to the rest of your body. Being low in iron is the most common form of anemia during pregnancy. If you are folate deficient, then you probably haven’t been eating your greens!

Folate is found in leafy green vegetables and is needed so your body can produce new, healthy blood cells. When you are pregnant, you need more folate, and it isn’t always possible to get this from your diet. Typically, the problem is rectified by taking folic acid supplements. If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, then you are more at risk of premature labor and the risk of congenital disabilities is higher. You can get vitamin B12 from eating meat and poultry, eggs and dairy products.

Who Is at a Higher Risk of Anemia in Pregnancy?

Women who are expecting twins or who are due to have a multiple birth are at higher risk, as are women who have two babies very close together. If you become pregnant as a teenager, then you are more vulnerable to developing anemia. The risk is also increased if you have morning sickness or if you have had anemia before.

Symptoms to Be Aware Of

Symptoms of anemia include tiredness, being short of breath or having a rapid heartbeat, having trouble concentrating, or feeling dizzy. You might also have very pale skin, nails or lips. Mild anemia may produce very few symptoms, or the symptoms may be confused with pregnancy. This is why it is essential for you or gynecologist to provide you with routine blood tests during your prenatal appointment.

Getting Treatment for Anemia

If your obstetrician does diagnose anemia, they might prescribe an iron or folic acid supplement which can be taken in addition to other vitamins prescribed during your pregnancy. Your doctor could also suggest adding certain foods to your diet that are rich in iron or which have been enriched to help improve your iron levels. Your doctor will carefully monitor your iron levels and can carry out regular blood tests to check your anemia is improving.

To help prevent anemia in pregnancy, make sure you eat plenty of iron-rich foods including cereals and grains, leafy veggies like broccoli and kale, nuts and seeds, and eggs. Also, try to eat sufficient poultry, lean red meats, and fish. Your doctor can provide more specific information as to which foods to include in your diet.