Anemia during pregnancy -During pregnancy, blood plasma volume increases by about 20-30% . This leads to the development of a mild anemia, which is easily detected by routine blood tests (whole blood count), but is not a cause for concern.
AM I AT RISK?
In some cases, the risk of developing severe anemia during pregnancy is increased:
- Getting pregnant soon after a previous pregnancy;
- Being pregnant with twins or triplets;
- Low iron intake due to poor nutrition;
- Heavy menstrual bleeding before becoming pregnant.
Symptoms typical for anemia include fatigue, irritability, shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain, cold limbs, difficult concentration, pale skin, brittle nails.
IRON DEFICIENCY ANEMIA
This type of anemia is the most common one. It is caused by insufficient intake or increased loss of iron (eg bleeding). We need iron to create hemoglobin. When your body lacks iron, formation of new erythrocytes is very difficult.
As the condition develops slowly, the body manages to adapt to some extent, the symptoms are too nonspecific to pay attention to and are often explained by other causes. Usually iron deficiency anemia is already present before the woman becomes pregnant. During pregnancy, when the body’s iron needs are higher, the condition may worsen.
This is dangerous for both the fetus and the mother. Severe anemia could lead to preterm birth, low birth weight, and anemia during infancy. For the mother, the risks are associated with greater blood loss during childbirth and decreased immunity.
PREVENTION WITH DIET
There are two types of iron — heme and non-heme. Heme iron is found in meat and is easier to digest. Non-heme iron is found in eggs, milk and plant foods and is more difficult to digest. Therefore, vegetarians and vegans are at a risk of developing iron deficiency anemia.
Take serious care of your diet if you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Include in your menu foods rich in iron such as green leafy vegetables (spinach), red meat, eggs, nuts, tofu. Iron is best absorbed in the presence of vitamin C (citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, kiwis, strawberries). If prenatal multivitamins and dietary changes are not able to help with your iron deficiency, you will be prescribed a special iron supplement. Depending on the severity of your condition, you may be referred to a hematologist.